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Legalizing Prostitution: A New Election Issue?

MY TURN-If you are bored to tears with the political candidates platforms of "breaking up the banks, building a wall, following the constitution as it was written, deporting 11 million illegal immigrants" and so on, I have a brand new topic for the next Presidential debate. It’s a subject that none of them have discussed … and it’s as old as civilization itself: legalizing prostitution. 

I’m sure that none of you were expecting that to be a political issue, yet California State Attorney General and Senator wannabe Kamala Harris received a gift from State Judge Jeffrey White who ruled against a suit brought by a San Francisco-based advocacy group, Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education and Research Project, against Attorney General Harris and the district attorneys of four counties in March 2015. 

According to a post in CalWatchdog.com, the suit claimed that prosecuting sex that is “part of a voluntary commercial exchange between adults” violates the state and U.S. Constitutions. 

Harris must have breathed a sigh of relief since her argument was almost the same as the Judge’s. 

"There is no fundamental right to engage in prostitution or to solicit prostitution,” wrote Harris in her motion to dismiss the case. “Neither is prostitution or solicitation expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.” But shortly after Harris filed, the Supreme Court ruled, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that same-sex marriages were constitutionally protected — a decision that plaintiffs sought to use to their advantage against Harris. 

I found one interesting part in the Plaintiff's submission: Plaintiffs commenced this lawsuit to challenge California’s intrusion upon their fundamental liberty interest in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex. The Supreme Court’s jurisprudential theme of shielding private, sexual relationships from governmental oversight,” they wrote, claiming that the ruling’s treatment of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, allows individuals to engage in intimate conduct without unwarranted governmental intrusion.” 

According to the Associated Press, prostitution has been illegal in California since 1872, with a 1961 update increasing the state’s $500 fine to $1,000 — while leaving in place the original punishment of six month’s time in jail. Rounding out his decision, White also rejected plaintiffs’ claims that their rights to free expression and to earning a living did not extend to using illegal activity to do so. 

So here it is... the great moral dilemma. One of our political parties advocates keeping the government out of the Doctor /Patient relationship (unless it comes to women’s health) but they have this obsessive interest in our sex lives. 

I would pay to watch a debate with the five Presidential candidates discussing the pros and cons of legalizing prostitution in the U.S. 

Taking a much needed break from the Neighborhood Council election morass and the National Election Circus, I decided to see what countries have legalized prostitution. At the same time I wanted to see if the sky has fallen; if the population has turned into pillars of salt; if AIDS fatalities have risen; and what other mayhem might have occurred. 

Here is what I found: 109 countries have deemed it illegal. Along with the United States, (with the exception of Nevada (where it is legal but restricted) and Rhode Island (that passed a law in 2009 making it a crime,) such “progressive societies” as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Russia, China, Viet Nam and Saudi Arabia are all examples of countries that have declared prostitution illegal. 

The seventy-seven countries practicing such debauchery include: Canada, Cuba, European Union, Israel and Switzerland. Five countries have no laws for or against it; and eleven countries have restricted laws that include regulating locations imposing strict health requirements, minimum ages, the prohibition of brothels, and outlawing sex slavery and "pimping." 

If we look at it from an economic point of view, according to the book, “Prostitution: Prices and Statistics of the Global Sex Trade” (available from Amazon for $2.99,) it is estimated that prostitution's annual revenue is $168 billion. 

Annual dollar sales in the world’s top ten prostitution markets are: 

China: $73 billion

Spain: $26.5 billion

Japan: $24 billion

Germany: $18 Billion (Legal Industry)

United States: $14.6 billion

South Korea: $12 billion

India: $8.4 billion

Thailand: $6.4 billion

Philippines: $6 billion

Turkey: $4 billion 

In many countries where it is legal, taxes are paid for "services rendered." The website ProCon.org presents both sides of different issues using experts in the various fields. In the case of prostitution, both sides make strong arguments.     

Looking at “moral dilemmas,” we know that moral standards in American society have changed over the past twenty years. Whereas racial inter-marriage was once illegal, it is now an accepted and common sight. Legalizing Marijuana will probably appear on the November ballot. Marriage to members of the same sex is the law of the land. Who knows what other moral issues will disappear? 

Personally speaking, we have such important challenges that need to be met...locally, nationally and internationally. I would think government intervention into our sex lives should be way down on the list of priorities. And it would not be a reason to either vote for or against Kamala Harris in the Senate race. 

As always....comments welcome.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.