California Lawmakers Advance Prostitution Bill That Would Stop Punishing People for Loitering
15:44 GMT 12.09.2021 (Updated: 16:51 GMT 12.09.2021)
Prostitution is illegal California but sex workers still enjoy some rights and protection from the state.
A new bill that would decriminalise
loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution was approved by California lawmakers on Friday.
The bill, introduced by California state Sen. Scott Wiener, was passed in the State Assembly in a 41-26 vote after intense discussions to then get approved by the Senate on a 26-9 roll call.
Wiener then used a procedural move to stop the bill from ending up at the governor's desk earlier than next year.
The senator, who strongly supports the measure as a way to halting the "disproportionate" arrest of transgender and minority people based on their looks, has his reasons for this "temporary delay":
"It provides the senator and our coalition more time to make the case about why this civil rights bill is good policy that should be signed into law and why this discriminatory loitering crime goes against California values and needs to be repealed", Wiener’s spokeswoman Catie Stewart explained, according to The Sacramento Bee.
The bill is expected to reach the governor's desk in January. On Tuesday, California will choose
whether Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled from his post.
If signed by the governor, the legislation will change portions of California law and forbid police from arresting people on suspicion of being involved in prostitution.
It will also dismiss convictions for those who have previously been arrested for the crime.
Wiener maintains that the current policy of arresting people based on how they look and what they're wearing is "discriminatory and wrong".
"Anti-LGTBQ and racist loitering laws need to go. Sex workers, LGBTQ people, and people of colour deserve to be safe on our streets", the senator said.
His vision has seen strong support in the State Assembly but opponents believe the bill could actually endanger victims of sex trafficking by making the most dangerous forms of prostitution legal.
Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris argued that "the unintended consequence" of the bill would actually make it "more difficult to protect victims of child trafficking, even if it's just a possibility, that's not something I can support".
Other opponents from the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation believe that those who purchase sex would end up having "immunity" if the bill is signed into law.
In February, New York lawmakers passed a similar bill, repealing the offence of loitering for the purposes of prostitution. The advocates of the controversial measure argued that the whole purpose of the original law was to arrest those "walking while trans".