Bill Could Decriminalize Aspects of Prostitution

Ortt says bill will do no good

Tom Puckett
May 10, 2019 - 4:00 am

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP/WBEN) - More than 100 current and former sex workers have come to Albany to encourage state lawmakers to repeal a loitering law that they say police use to harass people simply for their appearance.

Speaking at a rally Tuesday in the state Capitol, members of the group called for the decriminalization of prostitution and solicitation, saying criminal penalties only punish and stigmatize sex workers - many of whom are underage, homeless or the victims of human trafficking.

The group also wants lawmakers to pass a new state law making it easier for former sex workers and trafficking victims to expunge convictions for offenses such as trespassing or drug possession if they were forced to commit the crime by their traffickers.

Neither bill has been scheduled for a vote in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

"I just don't see what good comes of doing that," says State Senator Robert Ortt. "We've been so focused on criminalizing things that were legal and decriminalizing things that have been long held as criminal, so why not add sex workers to the mix. It really crystalizes the political shift in Albany." Ortt says his constituents believe there are bigger issues like infrastructure to deal with than legalizing prostitution.

Ortt wonders what problem will be solved by decriminalizizing any aspect of prostitution. "I don't know what group this is benefitting other sex workers themselves. We should encourage people not to get into sex work. If you think about human trafficking, I don't believe for one second it will help that. In fact, if it's legalized we could see more of this," says Ortt, who also believes an additional health problem could be created.

Ortt says he doesn't put it past Democrats to pass any such bill.

Attorney Paul Cambria syas resistance to passing this is expected. "People inherently have a moral opposition to that, and politicians do what is popular to be re-elected. They avoid being controversial," says Cambria. He says he didn't think marijuana would be legalized, so prostitution could be legal here, but not for at least two to three years.

Cambria looks at European nations that legalize prostitution. "If you look at those countries, they're licensed, they have physicals, and it's a much better situation than being underground like it is in New York," says Cambria. "It's a matter of what's the better way for society as a whole. Should you license it, should you regulate it, or keep it underground? It's called the world's oldest profession, and it's not going away anytime soon."

If it is approved, Cambria expectes the state to look at financial gains. "There would be taxes, fees, administrative costs, and as a result there would be a number of regulations just to justify the charging of the money," notes Cambria.


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