California Democrats Block Bill to Recriminalize Prostitution Loitering

California Democrats Block Bill to Recriminalize Prostitution Loitering

Women stand in the Blade area of Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

4/8/2024

Updated: 4/9/2024

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Democratic lawmakers in California quashed an attempt on April 2 to recriminalize loitering for prostitution.
Senate Bill 1219, introduced by state Sen. Kelly Seyarto, a Republican, would make impeding traffic and loitering in a public place with the intent to direct or solicit prostitution a crime again.
The behavior was decriminalized in 2022 by legislation pushed by state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat, who claimed that the law disproportionately targeted transgender women based on their appearance.
The new measure was scheduled for a hearing on April 2, but Democratic state senators on the Senate’s Public Safety Committee did not allow a vote on the bill, leaving it in limbo in the committee.
Mr. Wiener is a member of the Senate’s Public Safety Committee that declined to vote on Mr. Seyarto’s bill on April 2.
Mr. Seyarto told Fox News Digital that he introduced the bill “in an attempt to offer resources to victims of human trafficking.” The senator said he was disappointed in the committee’s decision.
“Neglecting victims for the sake of not inconveniencing criminals is bad public policy,” Mr. Seyarto told the news station. “I am disappointed that the bill did not even get a motion for a vote in committee.”
More than in any other profession, police officers are likely to encounter victims and traffickers in their everyday work, putting them in a unique position to identify, intervene, and possibly separate victims from their abusers, Mr. Seyarto said in an online statement about his bill.
By recriminalizing loitering for prostitution, police will again have a tool to separate victims from their abusers while connecting them to human trafficking resources, according to Mr. Seyarto.
In defense of decriminalizing loitering for prostitution, Mr. Wiener said in 2022 that the crime status didn’t protect public safety.
“This misdemeanor crime has failed to protect public safety, in addition to contributing to the discrimination on the basis of gender, race, class, and perceived sex worker status—in particular, targeting black women and members of the transgender community,” he said.
The bill did not repeal the crime of solicitation for prostitution or engaging in prostitution. Sex workers and those who want to buy their services continue to face criminal prosecution. Human trafficking also remains a crime.
Under existing law, it is not a crime for a minor to engage in solicitation of prostitution, but law enforcement who believe a minor is a victim of human trafficking can still take action to help them, according to an analysis of SB 1219.
Opponents of Mr. Wiener’s bill in 2022 argued that repealing the crime would make it more difficult to crack down on human trafficking operations. Since the bill’s passage, several police chiefs, mayors, and district attorneys have criticized the law and advocated for its repeal.
On March 3, civil rights groups began noticing how big the problem had become.
“We are very concerned that children’s lives are at stake,” Shane Harris, a national civil rights advocate based in San Diego told ABC 7.
Mr. Harris sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom leading an effort to repeal Mr. Wiener’s law, which prohibited police from citing people suspected of soliciting sex based on appearance.
San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan supports efforts to again make it a crime to loiter for prostitution, she said in an opinion article published in The San Diego Union-Tribune on Jan. 30.
“By decriminalizing loitering for prostitution, the illicit sex trade moved from online back to the streets where transactions are openly occurring in front of law enforcement,” Ms. Stephan said. “Rather than increasing tools available to deter and stop exploitation, California’s Legislature did the opposite by enacting a law that created more exploitation of women and girls. ... Only by bolstering human trafficking laws can we protect the most vulnerable and stop allowing lives to be destroyed.”
Several law enforcement associations throughout the state support the legislation.
Groups opposing the bill include the American Civil Liberties Union, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California Public Defenders Association, and several others.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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