'Perfect If You Want Sex Trafficking': California Takes Possible First Step Toward Legalizing Prostitution

Bill will prevent police from arresting suspected prostitutes

A California police officer poses as a prostitute, 2004 / Getty Images
June 22, 2022

The Democrat-controlled California State Legislature on Monday sent a bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) that will prevent law enforcement from arresting individuals suspected of prostitution.

The bill will eliminate the charge of "loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution," the Associated Press reported Monday. Supporters say loitering-for-prostitution arrests disproportionately affect black, Hispanic, and transgender people. While both chambers of the legislature passed the bill last year, the bill's sponsor, Democratic state senator Scott Wiener, said he waited until Pride Month to send the measure to Newsom's desk.

California's move to stop cops from combatting prostitution comes as leaders across the state struggle to address rising crime rates. Homicides in Los Angeles are on track to top last year's all-time high, the Los Angeles Times reported last month. Angelenos' fears about rising crime have helped the mayoral campaign of Rick Caruso, a tough-on-crime former Republican. Voters in deep-blue San Francisco, meanwhile, ousted soft-on-crime District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who supports the pro-prostitution bill.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department opposes the bill, which it says would hinder the ability of police to fight human trafficking and assist victims of abuse.

The bill will "benefit sex buyers," the sheriff's department said.

Other opponents of the bill include the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and the California Family Council.

The bill is "perfect if you want sex trafficking to even increase in California," said California Family Council spokesman Greg Burt, who fears it's part of an effort to legalize prostitution in the Golden State.

Wiener has a history of introducing bills to liberalize laws on sex crimes. He has led efforts to lessen legal penalties for individuals who knowingly give HIV to sexual partners and for gay pedophiles.

Some of Wiener's Democratic colleagues do not want to be affiliated with his bills. "More than two dozen of his fellow Democrats in the Assembly and Senate either voted no or declined to vote" on the prostitution bill, the AP reported.

Wiener did not respond to a request for comment.