Lawsuit Seeks to Legalize Prostitution in California

SAN FRANCISCO - Advocates for California sex workers are seeking to legalize the world's oldest profession.

A federal lawsuit filed March 4 seeks to strike down the California law criminalizing prostitution as an unconstitutional violation of equal protection and free speech rights. The lawsuit alleges that California's criminalizing of prostitution deprives sex workers or their right to participate in a private, consensual activity.

``The rights of adults to engage in consensual, private sexual activity (even for compensation) is a fundamental liberty interest,'' the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit was filed by the San Francisco-based advocacy group Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project along with three women who say they want to work legally as prostitutes in California. A disabled man who says he wants to legally pay for sex is also a plaintiff.

D. Gill Sperlein, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said legalizing prostitution will also make sex workers safer. ``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 in a prepared statement.

California formally outlawed prostitution in 1961.

The California Attorney General's office didn't return a call for comment.

The group says it raised $30,000 last year to hire an attorney and file the lawsuit. It's seeking an additional $30,000 to pay for the continued litigation.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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