A federal appeals court on Thursday delivered a favorable ruling to those wishing to overturn California’s ban on prostitution, deciding that the challenge to the century-old law may proceed.
The three-judge panel delivered the ruling in agreement with the plaintiff’s argument that the current law violates citizens’ rights to consensual sex, based on a 2003 ruling that nullified a law that criminalized gay sexual acts.
“I believe people in this country have the right to act this way and to make a living this way,” attorney Louis Sirkin told a judicial panel, according to KTVU-TV.
Prostitution has been banned in California since 1872, when “every common prostitute” was defined as a “vagrant” subject to a $500 fine and six months in jail. The law was slightly adjusted in the 1960s when prostitution was branded as disorderly conduct, punishable by a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
The plaintiffs in the case include three former prostitutes, a would-be client, and representatives from ESPLER (Erotic Service Providers Legal, Educational and Research Project). They were greeted by good news Monday when the judges conceded the law needed review.
“Why should it be illegal to sell something that it’s legal to give away?” Judge Carlos Bea asked as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The defense noted that the intent of the law was not to infringe on individual rights but to limit an industry that promotes sexual violence, trafficking, and illegal drug use.
“The state is not telling anyone who they can sleep with,” said Deputy Attorney General Sharon O’Grady, but noted that banning prostitution was “an easy place to draw the line” to protect against violence, drug use and trafficking.
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