(Chuck Muth) – There are reasons for commercial sex workers to be in an extra celebratory mood this Independence Day.
In politics they call it “Big Mo’” – when momentum swings from one campaign to another. And in the War on Sex, the momentum has decidedly shifted in the direction of commercial sex workers.
As Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence we celebrate today, wrote…
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Similarly, the religious beliefs of some that fee-for-sex between consenting adults is immoral does not make it injurious to anyone else; it doesn’t pick anyone’s pocket or break anyone’s leg. As such, government should butt out.
And there are signs this Independence Day that some elected officials are starting to agree.
In Queens, New York, a young, relatively unknown public defender running for district attorney shocked the political establishment by winning last week. Her platform included a pledge that the DA’s office would stop prosecuting commercial sex transactions between consenting adults.
Of course, until state law is changed such relationships will remain officially illegal. However, a bill to change that has also been introduced in the New York Legislature. And while the bill’s prospects are a longshot, it’s still a step in the right direction.
In addition, a similar effort to end the criminalization of prostitution has also been introduced in Washington, DC – where politicians and lobbyists have elevated “fee for service” to an art form in which only taxpayers get screwed.
In California last week the State Assembly passed a bill that, as Maxine Doogan of the ESPLER Project described, “prohibits the arrest for prostitution of people who witness or are a victim of specified and serious crimes, and prohibits the use of condoms as evidence of sex work.”
The bill now moves to the state Senate.
And on Tuesday Hawaii passed a bill that tosses prostitution convictions for “those who avoid additional convictions for three years, even if they can’t prove they have been victims of sex trafficking.”
A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
It’s also noteworthy that an effort to kill the only system of legal prostitution in the United States died last month.
A state senator introduced a bill to shut down Nevada’s legal rural brothels – which have been operating successfully and safely for almost 50 years. His effort failed when the Legislature adjourned without the bill even getting a committee hearing, let alone a vote.
Admittedly, these are incremental steps toward ending criminal penalties for commercial sex work. But Big Mo’ is clearly on the side of those who embrace Thomas Jefferson’s “live and let live” attitude.
And that’s something to celebrate on this Fourth of July.
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a limited-government grassroots advocacy organization, and government affairs counsel to the Nevada Brothel Association