Judge Says ‘No’ to Legalizing Prostitution in California

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A Bay Area judge upheld California’s 144-year-old ban on prostitution on Thursday, ruling against three former prostitutes, a would-be client, and the Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education & Research Project.

The collaboration filed a lawsuit last year to overturn that law and sought “to empower the erotic community and advance sexual privacy rights.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the plaintiffs invoked the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling that overturned state laws against gay sexual activity in which the SCOTUS said the Constitution gives adults “substantial protection … in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex.”

However, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White explained in his decision that the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause does not protect the relationship between a prostitute and a client the way it protects a marriage, for example.

Additionally, Judge White said that the 2003 SCOTUS ruling disavowed any intention to legalize prostitution and noted that the court referred to intimate relationships and not merely to sexual activity, as the plaintiffs sought.

At the time of their filing last year, the two Cincinnati-based lawyers representing the plaintiffs in their quest to legalize prostitution in California argued “It’s legal to have sex, so why should it be illegal to pay for it?” Lou Sirkin and fellow attorney Brian O’Connor of Santen & Hughes  filed the case in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of the Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education & Research Project.

On Thursday, Sirkin reportedly said his clients were “disappointed but not defeated” and said they would decide whether to seek an appeal in a few weeks time.

California is famous for being the home of porn and Playboy’s infamous founder Hugh Heffner. The Playboy Mansion is currently for sale, listed at $200 million. But Nevada is the only state in America where some forms of prostitution and solicitation of sex are legal.

The Chronicle reports that Judge White rejected arguments made by the plaintiff that the ban on prostitution interferes with freedom of speech and the right to earn a living. He reportedly said those two things do not apply to illegal activity.

Furthermore, Judge White cited an argument from a 2008 ruling in a different state noting that commercial sex fosters an environment that encourages violence against females, could potentially increase the risk of STDs and also lead to human trafficking.

This past February, a human trafficking bust involving teenage girls in San Jose was found to have connections within Orange County.


Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.