(Chuck Muth) – Last week the Nevada Legislative Commission appointed the six members of the Legislature who will sit on the interim committee charged with studying the working conditions for Nevada’s legal commercial sex workers.
The study, proposed by Assemblywoman Leslie Cohen (D-Las Vegas), will include “an examination of the extent to which the rules and working conditions in licensed brothels provide for the health, safety and general welfare of sex workers in licensed brothels.”
The appointed study committee members include three from the State Senate and three from the State Assembly. Four Democrats, two Republicans. Four women, two men. Three from Clark County, one from Washoe County and two rural.
- Julia Ratti (D-Washoe)
- Dallas Harris (D-Clark)
- Pete Goicoechea (R-Rural)
- Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen (D-Clark)
- Assemblywoman Heidi Swank (D-Clark)
- Assemblyman John Ellison (R-Rural)
Of the six, Sen. Goicoechea and Assemblyman Ellison represent districts in which legal brothels currently operate. Legal brothels are not allowed in Clark and Washoe counties.
The study committee will likely hold its first meeting some time in late September and is likely to appoint Assemblywoman Cohen to serve as the committee chair.
The group will likely conduct its study through next June or July and then begin the process of recommending possible legislation for the 2021 legislative session.
Of primary interest, as outlined in the bill creating the study and articulated during hearings on it, is the nature of the contractual relationship, rules, and working conditions of the independent businesswomen who choose to work at the brothels and the brothel owners.
The committee is also directed to study…
“The adequacy of oversight and regulation by the State and licensing and law enforcement units of local government with respect to the health, safety and general welfare of workers in licensed brothels.”
In that regard here are three areas the committee should put at the top of its list for examination…
1.) Closing a loophole in the law that potentially allows the work card applications of commercial sex workers at Nevada’s legal brothels to be released to the public.
Those work card applications – which include private information, such as social security number, home address and other contact information – should be considered confidential, just like the applications to obtain a work card for gaming and liquor establishments.
In fact, the confidentiality for these women is even more important due to the nature of their work. After all, liquor store clerks and blackjack dealers aren’t usually targets for stalking, harassment and sexual assault. Commercial sex workers are.
2.) Eliminating and/or changing state law and ordinances which perpetuate the social stigma associated with commercial sex work.
Despite brothels being legal in parts of rural Nevada, certain wording, phraseology, limitations, requirements and restrictions unique only to this industry contribute to a community perception that these professional women are “second-class citizens.”
Eliminating the stigma associated with LEGAL commercial sex work in Nevada would go a long way toward improving the “health, safety and general welfare of workers in licensed brothels.”
3.) Along those same lines, the study committee should review provisions in state law that discriminate against legal brothels when it comes to advertising.
Despite being a legal, licensed and heavily regulated industry, Nevada’s brothels suffer from severe restrictions, embedded in law, on their ability to market their services, unlike every other legal business in the state – including gaming, liquor and marijuana, as well as other sex-related businesses such as gentleman’s clubs and escort services.
Indeed, state law even goes so far as to make it unlawful for a legal brothel to include in any “display, handbill or publication” the “address, location or telephone number of a house of prostitution” or “identification of a means of transportation to such a house,” or even “directions telling how to obtain any such information.”
Seriously? In 2019? Does Google Maps know about this?
Such limitations and restrictions on a legal business which perpetuates the stigma absolutely harms the “general welfare of workers in licensed brothels” and should be revised.
With those items in mind, let the study begin.
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a limited-government grassroots advocacy organization, and government affairs counsel to the Nevada Brothel Association