By Tim Redmond
A sex-worker rights group based in San Francisco is teaming up with a high-profile First Amendment lawyer from the Midwest to launch a legal strategy aimed at overthrowing the laws against prostitution.
It’s a bold and unprecedented effort to get the federal courts to agree that sex work is protected by the Constitutional right to privacy – but Cincinnati-based attorney H. Louis Sirkin thinks “the time has come.”
Sirkin, who helped overturn a Texas law banning the sale of sex toys and defended the rights of a Cincinnati museum to display the works of Robert Mapplethorpe, told me that both society and the courts are moving in the direction of protecting sexual privacy – and that consensual, commercial sex between adults falls into that category.
It’s a new approach to a long, long battle. Advocates in San Francisco have been trying to legalize sex work since the 1970s, when Margot St. James founded COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics). It was San Francisco’s Carole Leigh who coined the term “sex work” in 1978. In 2008, more than 140,000 people voted for a local measure to decriminalize prostitution.
And now, to the courts. (more after the break)