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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Prostitution Ban Called Unconstitutional

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A prostitute and a man who would like to enjoy her services sued California on Wednesday, challenging the constitutionality of state laws against "private, consensual sexual activity ... as part of a voluntary commercial exchange between adults."

Plaintiff K.L.E.S. says she "has been licensed to provide sexual activity for hire to consenting adults in Nevada," and would like to work in Northern California, where she lives.

Plaintiffs C.V. and J.B. both worked as prostitutes in California, and would like to again, but fear criminal prosecution.

Plaintiff John Doe, who has a disability, wants to hire a prostitute to "engage in this sexual activity consensually, respectfully, and in the privacy of his own residence."

The lead plaintiff is San Francisco-based Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education & Research Project (ESPLERP), an advocacy group.

They sued four counties' district attorneys and California Attorney General Kamala Harris on March 3, claiming that prosecuting sex that is "part of a voluntary commercial exchange between adults" violates the state and federal constitutions.

ESLERP describes itself as a nonprofit serving "erotic service providers, escorts or other types of workers in the human sexuality field."

The individual plaintiffs say they fear prosecution under California's prostitution and solicitation laws. Soliciting, agreeing to engage in, or engaging in prostitution is a misdemeanor in the state.

Though women plaintiffs say they have abandoned their profession, in California, for fear of prosecution. K.L.E.S. says that this is a "particularly difficult concession" for her, as she was "licensed to perform identical activities in Nevada."

They claim, inter alia, that criminalizing prostitution discourages safe sex and condom use, because prosecutors use condom possession as evidence of prostitution-related offenses.

The law "unconstitutionally limits" a person's right to earn a living in her chosen profession and to "maintain certain intimate or private relationships," the plaintiffs say.

They claim that prosecution of prostitution violates the First Amendment's protection of freedom of association.

They seek declaratory judgment that California's prostitution statute is unconstitutional, and an injunction against its enforcement.

They are represented by H. Louis Sirkin, with Santen & Hughes, in Cincinnati.

The defendant district attorneys are from San Francisco, Marin, Alameda and Sonoma counties.

Contact Arvin Temkar at [email protected]

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