Federal Suit Targets Calif. Prostitution Law

Mar 4, 2015 9:26 AM PST

SAN FRANCISCO — The Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLER) plans to file a federal lawsuit today at 11 a.m. seeking to overturn Section 647(b) of the California Penal Code, the state’s prostitution statute.

The complaint brought on by the California-based advocacy and legal group for sexual privacy rights contends that state’s current anti-prostitution law “unfairly deprives individuals the right to private consensual activity, criminalizes the discussion of this activity between consenting adults, and unconstitutionally places restrictions on individuals’ right to freely associate.”

The suit to be filed at U.S. District Court in San Francisco names as defendants state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a leading U.S. Senate candidate, and four Northern Californian district attorneys, alleging the current anti-prostitution law violates fundamental constitutional rights, including those of free speech, due process and freedom of association rights.

Adult industry attorney Gill Sperlein, who represents ESPLER in the case, said, “We believe it is time to revisit the criminalization of prostitution and put the state to the test.  In the light Lawrence vs. Texas and Reliable Consultants vs. Abbott, the state can no longer simply say that morality is a sufficient reason for regulating private sexual relationships even when it involves the exchange of money.”

“Social science clearly demonstrates that the criminalization of prostitution puts sex workers at risk of abuse because it discourages them from reaching out to law enforcement,” he said.

Maxine Doogan, ESPLER’s president added, “Just as the Lawrence vs. Texas decision made same-sex sexual activity legal, and the Loving vs. Virginia decision struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage, this complaint seeks to remove the government from restricting basic fundamental and widely recognized civil and human rights.”

Sperlein and Doogan will hold a press conference regarding the suit at noon today at the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco.

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