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New York Could Be The First State To Decriminalize Sex Work

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DecrimNY steering committee member Cecilia Gentili, center, speaks at a rally on Feb. 25, 2019, announcing new organizing and legislation to decriminalize sex work in New York state. Gentilli is accompanied by New York state Sen. Jessica Ramos, left, and state Sen. Julia Salazar. Photo: Scott Heins

New York is aiming to become the first state in America to fully decriminalize sex work via a new bill introduced this morning by legislators and activists from Decrim NY, a coalition of various organizations advocating for the rights of sex workers.


The bill, called Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Actis sponsored by Democratic Senators Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, as well as assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Yuh-Line Niou. It is the first statewide bill of its kind in the history of the United States and purposefully cites no reference to a specific gender in its language.

Currently, New York state law has over two dozen anti-prostitution penal codes. About half of them pertain only to sex work between consenting adults, while the other statutes focus on trafficking, exploitation of minors, and coercion in the sex trades.

This bill upholds the felony anti-trafficking statutes designed to punish traffickers as well as to protect minors, however it would repeal important sections in the penal code that prohibit prostitution and the criminalization of consenting adults.

Specifically, the bill would ensure that adults who are over 18 will not be criminalized for consensually selling or buying sex. However, it will still be a crime if a person is forced or intimidated into engaging in sex work.

Furthermore, friends and family who help to facilitate a consenting adult in the sex trade will no longer be committing a crime. (For example, if a friend drives someone to another location to sell sex, that friend will not be punished.) If passed, loitering will also be decriminalized, as well as the discriminatory police practices of arresting people based on their clothing, gender presentation, the neighborhood in which they’re in, and their use of the public space.

The bill also introduces several amendments, including an update to the definition of “advancing prostitution” so that young people between the ages of 17 and 21 are not criminalized for working together. This will particularly help LGBTQ youth in the state of New York, who are statistically more vulnerable to engaging in survival sex work.

According to data from the Urban Institute, queer youth in New York state partake in sex work at seven to eight times the rate of their straight peers. Despite the numbers, resources remain scarce and many urban cities fail to combat the rising numbers. In fact, the National Coalition for the Homeless states that despite the nearly 500,000 youth experiencing homelessness, there are only 4,000 shelter beds in the United States. Consequentially, many LGBTQ youth have no choice but to trade sex in exchange for basic needs like housing.

Furthermore, the bill will also add an option for sex workers to apply for criminal record relief for crimes they were previously convicted of that are repealed under this bill and no longer a crime.

“We want to bring sex workers out of the shadows,” Senator Ramos stated at a press conference. “When we decriminalize sex work, we will be taking a giant leap towards ending sex trafficking. We know that by giving sex workers agency, humanity, and acknowledging their existence, we’re empowering them to report violence against them. This is why we chose the decimrinaltzion model and not the models seen around the world. We want sex workers to support each other… Every worker has an inherent right to a safe work place, and we are here to affirm today that sex work is work.”

One study points to the disproportionate amount of trans people (specifically trans women of color) who engage in the sex trade.

According to a study called Meaningful Work, co-sponsored by the National Center for Transgender Equality, an overwhelming majority (69.3 percent) of sex workers reported experiencing an adverse job outcome in the traditional workforce, such as being denied a job or promotion or being fired because of their gender identity or expression (vs. 44.7 percent of non-sex workers). Those who lost a job due to anti-transgender bias were almost three times as likely to engage in the sex trade (19.9 percent vs. 7.7 percent).

Additionally, unemployment rates were dramatically higher for those who reported involvement in the sex trade (25.1 percent) compared to those who were not (12.4 percent).

Transgender sex workers were more than twice as likely to live in extreme poverty (under $10,000 per year) than those who hadn’t participated (30.8 percent vs. 13.3 percent) and were less likely to be higher income earners, only 22.1 percent reported household income over $50,000/year (compared to 43.4 percent of nonparticipants).

Sex workers living with HIV have the added weight of worrying about draconinan crime laws currently on the books in over 30 states that virtually equate HIV as being a weapon, making it a felony for someone who’s poz to engage in sexual acts without disclosing their status first. However, for many people of color who’ve fallen victim to these laws, it is highly unregulated and enforced by stigmatizing narratives that have made little movement since the time of the AIDS crisis. 

If passed, the bill will make an enormous impact on the safety of sex workers in the state of New York. It could also lead the way for a other states and jurisdictions to also decriminalize sex work. 

(Reporting By The Advocate)

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Cardinal George Pell’s Appeal Denied; Convictions On Sex Abuse Will Stand

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MELBOURNE, Australia — An Australian court has confirmed convictions against the most superior Catholic to be found condemned of child sex abuse.


The Victoria state Court of Appeal by a 2-1 majority ruling published Wednesday denied Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unanimous verdicts a jury issued in December finding Pope Francis’ former finance minister condemned of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and 1997.

At the time, Pell had just become archbishop of Australia’s second-largest city and had established an international-first reimbursement method for victims of clergical sexual abuse.

His lawyers are predicted to appeal the decision in the High Court, Australia’s final arbitrator.

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Attorney Cites Trump’s Rhetoric In National Anthem Attack On Montana Teenager

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Curt James Brockway, 39, is charged with felony assault on a minor.(Montana Department of Corrections)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The attorney for a Montana man accused of throwing a 13-year-old boy to the ground at a rodeo because the teenager didn’t remove his hat during the national anthem says his client believes he was acting on an order from President Trump.


Attorney Lance Jasper told the Missoulian newspaper that the president’s “rhetoric” contributed to 39-year-old Curt Brockway’s disposition when he grabbed the boy by the throat and slammed him to the ground, fracturing his skull at the Mineral County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

Jasper said Brockway is an Army veteran who believes he was acting on an order by his commander in chief. He adds that Brockway’s decision-making has been affected by a brain injury he suffered in a vehicle crash.

Brockway is charged with felony assault on a minor.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg: ‘I am very much alive’

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(CNN) — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday sought to quell concerns that her recent health-related issues could cause her to leave the court, saying in a new interview, “I am very much alive.”

The comments to NPR from Ginsburg, 86 — who earlier this year took a break from the court after undergoing cancer surgery — come amid concerns from progressives that her death or retirement would give President Donald Trump an opportunity to replace a reliably liberal seat on the court with a conservative justice. Ginsburg has sought in recent days to signal that her health is stable and she has no plans to step down with the court facing major issues in its next session on immigration, gun control, gay rights and possibly abortion.

During Ginsburg’s recent surgery, doctors removed from her left lung two cancerous nodules, which were found during scans taken after the justice sustained three fractured ribs in a fall last November. In the interview with NPR, published Wednesday, Ginsburg made reference to the late Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, who suggested in 2009 that she would soon die from the pancreatic cancer she had been diagnosed with.

“There was a senator — I think it was after the pancreatic cancer — who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months. That senator — whose name I’ve forgotten — is now himself dead. And I am very much alive,” Ginsburg said.

Bunning, who later apologized for the remarks, died in 2017.

In the NPR interview, Ginsburg also weighed in on an idea circulating among some Democrats to increase the number of justices on the court should a Democrat be elected president, saying she disagreed.

“Well, if anything, it would make the court appear partisan. It would be that one side saying, ‘when we’re in power, it was only to enlarge the number of judges so we will have more people who will vote the way we want them to,'” she said. “So I am not at all in favor of that solution to what I see as a temporary situation.”

Ginsburg’s health has become the subject of much attention in recent years. In November 2014, she underwent a heart procedure to have a stent placed in her right coronary artery, and in 2009, she was treated for early stages of pancreatic cancer.

In 1999, just six years after being sworn in as an associate justice, she successfully underwent surgery to treat colon cancer.

Last July, Ginsburg said she hopes to stay on the bench past 2020. On Tuesday, she revealed that she traveled with the late Justice John Paul Stevens “in the last week of his life” to Lisbon, Portugal, for a conference where the two justices attended meetings, visited museums, vineyards and castles.

“His conversation was engaging, his memory amazing,” she said on Tuesday. As they were leaving the US ambassador’s residence during their last evening in Lisbon, Ginsburg told Stevens, “My dream is to remain on the court as long as you did.”

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