SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Friday a state law which will prevent police from arresting anyone loitering in prostitution. This issue has divided advocates and sex workers during the rare nine month delay that state legislators made last year.
” To be precise, this bill doesn’t legalize prostitution,” Newsom stated in a signed message. He stated that the bill “revokes provisions that have resulted in disproportionate harassment women” and transgender adult women. This is not a matter where Black or Latino women will be particularly affected.
The bill would prohibit police from in California arresting people for loitering in the intention to prostitution. According to Sen. Scott Wiener, and others supporting the bill, such arrests often depend on officers’ perceptions.
While Newsom stated he supported the repeal’s intent, he said that he was cautious about how it is implemented. He added that his administration would track criminal and prosecutorial trends and work with corrections if necessary.
” For far too long California law was used to harass, arrest, and profile transgender people just for being there in public places,” Tony Hoang (executive director of Equality California’s LGTBQ rights group) said while praising its repeal.
This measure will also allow people who have been convicted in the past or currently serving sentences to request a court dismissal and sealing of their conviction record.
Last year, similar legislation was passed in New York as part of an overall effort to eliminate violence against and discrimination towards sex workers.
” Everyone – regardless of race, gender, or income – should feel safe walking on the streets of Newsom,” Wiener stated in a thank you statement.
Wiener was Newsom’s colleague Democrat. He used a parliamentary maneuver in order to derail Newsom from consideration months after the bill had passed the Legislature. The pause was intended to give supporters more time, such as by signing an electronic petition.
Opponents such as the California Family Council responded with an online petition in a long tug-of war.
The American Civil Liberties Union of California, along with other groups supporting transgender workers in the sex business, sought legislation. Public defenders like George Gascon of Los Angeles County, San Francisco, and Chesa Boudin from San Francisco are supporting the legislation. There is also support for reforms in criminal justice. Recent recall of Boudin was prompted by a campaign calling him soft on crime.
The loitering law permits police to “criminalise other legal activities such as walking, dressing and standing in public,” according to the ACLU.
Workers who are afraid of being arrested for loitering also “are more susceptible to exploitation, violence, and face greater obstacles to accessing housing and legal employment,” said the group.
The nonpartisan National Center on Sexual Exploitation argued the contrary, saying that repealing the law would allow traffickers and buyers of sex to abuse vulnerable individuals more easily.
” Many officers use the loitering law to start trafficking investigations, which have resulted in serious convictions of traffickers and pimps,” Stephany Powell (ex-LAPD Vice Sergeant) said. She is now the center’s director for law enforcement training.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the 75,000-member Peace Officers Research Association of California objected that the law would make it harder both to confront those who commit crimes related to prostitution and human trafficking and to help those who are being victimized.
Republicans from the Senate and Assembly requested that Newsom veto this measure.
Several advocates and victims also opposed this bill.
“This bill hurts survivors instead of helping them. It is becoming more popular,” Vanessa Russell, the founder of Love Never Fails San Francisco Bay Area anti-sex trafficking group said.
” If there’s no law enforcement intervention, the number of fatalities will rise,” said Hannah Diaz. She was one of those who joined Russell last year at an anti-bill protest.
The loitering bill, which is one of many related bills that have been passed in the past few years, is the most recent.
A bill was passed in 2016 that prohibits minors from being arrested for prostitution. It is intended to treat them as victims.
A 2019 bill prohibits the arrest of sex workers who are reporting multiple crimes as victims or witnesses. This law also prohibits the use of condom possession as a reason to arrest.