Okay, California will probably not legalize prostitution, but one California nonprofit thinks it could be possible. Erotic Service Provider Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLER) is trying to legalize the profession by arguing that prostitution’s illegality violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. ESPLER argues in its complaint that laws prohibiting prostitution and solicitation violate substantive due process rights and violate one’s liberty interest in one’s private, sexual relationships. ESPLER argues in its brief that California laws criminalizing prostitution “deprive individuals of the fundamental right to engage in consensual, private sexual activity; deny individuals the right to choose for themselves how to earn a living and who to enter a contract with; limit how and with whom an individual can associate in private; discourage safe sex because the possession of condoms is used as evidence by prosecutors; California has failed to provide a legitimate rational to continue denying individuals the right of free speech, the right to earn a living, and the right to freely associate; and the Penal Code is so vaguely worded that it criminalizes the mere discussion of paying for erotic services between consenting adults.”
Veronica Monet, a former sex worker and current relationship counselor, is behind ESPLER’s fight to legalize prostitution. She says that criminalizing this behavior pulls the industry underground and sets “up antagonism between law enforcement and women who want to run their own lives, or women who are in it for survival.” Monet and ESPLER believe that decriminalizing the profession and setting up an open dialogue with sex workers can help prevent major problems with the industry, for example, underage women forced into prostitution, abusive pimps, or rapists.
There is no doubt that ESPLER has a difficult fight ahead of them, and it remains to be determined whether the court will buy their arguments. In order to prevail in court, ESPLER must demonstrate that the denial of the rights mentioned above “offends decency and fairness,” and that the rights are “deeply rooted in the nation’s history.” Time will tell if this fight is successful, but until then prostitution remains illegal in the state of California. If you are accused of prostitution, you will need to consult an experienced attorney.