New York state legislators reintroduce bills to decriminalize prostitution

Support growing for legalization of prostitution in New York State, study finds

Legislators in New York state reintroduce past measures in the State Senate and the Assembly to decriminalize sex work.

The bills—S6419 in the Senate and A8230 in the Assembly—that would decriminalize prostitution are backed by Sens. Julia Salazar, Robert Jackson, Luis Sepúlveda, and Jessica Ramos. From the Assembly, members Richard Gottfried, Dan Quart, and Catalina Cruz round out the measures’ support. All six legislators represent New York City.

The measures would maintain laws that relate to trafficking and consent and expunge the prior convictions of individuals prosecuted for sex work.

New York could become the first state in the union to pass legislation to decriminalize sex work, provided a version of these bills makes it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

Last year’s versions of the bill did not make it out of committee, as reforms to sex work address a highly contentious issue.

In June, the final month of the 2019 legislative session, Salazar followed through on a campaign pledge by introducing the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, with Ramos and fellow Democratic state Sens. Luis Sepúlveda and Robert Jackson joining as co-sponsors. “What this bill does is it removes from the criminal code the buying or trading of sex between consenting adults,” Salazar explained recently, while leaving in place the portions of the law that address “coercion of minors (or) anything to do with minors” as well as trafficking and exploitation.

According to sex workers and their advocates, this newfound enthusiasm among politicians to join in the push for decriminalizationis hardly the result of any one “blue wave.” It’s the outcome of a decadeslong campaign of public outreach and education led by current and former sex workers. It’s no easy endeavor to “peel back layers of prejudice” built up over time, Decrim NY member Jared Trujillo said. But by showing people “that sex workers are your neighbors, they’re not these horrid people,” the group hopes to speak a language politicians can’t ignore: public sentiment.

That work is gradual and grueling. And for that reason, despite the widespread press coverage, the backing of legislators and solid supporter turnout, Decrim NY organizer Nina Luo expressed cautious optimism on the day of the organization’s launch. She “wouldn’t have believed it” if someone had told her a couple of years ago that even a handful of legislators would come out to support a full decriminalization bill, but one promising day of public support was just the start. “You know, it’s easy to feel like a win is close when you have electeds with you,” she said. “We know that there’s a lot more work to do.”

Luo suspects a decriminalization bill would pass much faster in a watered-down, “shitty” form, as she put it, perhaps one that simply moved prostitution charges into the civil code. For sex workers, Luo argued, making too many concessions means permitting more of the same harassment and arrests. Instead, she prefers the longer, more difficult route, taking advantage of the movement’s momentum and using it to build a wider consensus around more sweeping changes.

The think tank Data for Progress found that nearly two-thirds of Democrats support fully decriminalizing sex work, along with two-thirds of all voters under 45.

52 percent of all voters said they “somewhat” or “strongly” support sex work decriminalization.

If passed, New York would become the first state to decriminalize sex work.

News 10 / City and State / Fox 5

551870cookie-checkNew York state legislators reintroduce bills to decriminalize prostitution

New York state legislators reintroduce bills to decriminalize prostitution

Share This

Leave a Reply