March 15, 2015
A legal group has filed a lawsuit in federal court which argues prostitution is a right that is protected by the constitution.
ESPLERP (Erotic Service Providers Legal Education and Research Project) is a group based in San Francisco, which has brought forth the claim.
The argument is founded upon the premise that prostitution – the exchange of consensual sex acts for money – remains within the confines of Free Speech, Due Process & Freedom of Association Rights.
According to a press release issued by ESPLERP:
The complaint contends that California’s current anti-prostitution law unfairly deprives individuals the right to private consensual activity, criminalizes the discussion of this activity between consenting adults, and unconstitutionally places restrictions on individuals’ right to freely associate.
The PR goes on to cite precedent in removing long-held laws which govern sexual acts, such as Lawrence v. Texas and Loving v. Virginia, cases through which acts and marriage between individuals of the same sex were decriminalized.
Though these were monumental cases in the fight for human rights in America, tackling prostitution is another mountain altogether. Though beside the point in terms of legality, lawmakers might be keen to tap into another industry for collecting tax revenues – something that the criminalization has prevented. This fact has proven instrumental in the successful arguments supporting legalization of marijuana.
In truth it would not be the first time a group fought and won on behalf of prostitution. From 1980-2009 in Rhode Island the punishment for prostitution was reduced to a misdemeanor (a charge akin to a speeding ticket). Practically speaking, the industry was decriminalized. In 2009 however, conservative lawmakers in addition to bipartisan anti-trafficking advocates were successful in recriminalizing prostitution.
Since the filing is in federal court, if ESPLERLP is successful in this lawsuit they will decriminalize prostitution simultaneously in 9 western states including California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Alaska.
Without a doubt this case, backed by a grassroots organization, has an enormous challenge on their hands. Success could mean laying the foundation for the decriminalization of prostitution in the rest of the United States.
Conversely, failure would be a high-profile setback for the rights of erotic service providers. But no matter the outcome, they will have people talking about the issue in a nationally recognized venue – a stage that harbors a level of legitimacy that cannot be achieved through protest alone.
You can donate to the ongoing legal battle by following this link.
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**Featured image credit: Flickr Photographer Eliya
Words by: Jacob Wisdom