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News + PoliticsHomeland Security: The new morals police?

Homeland Security: The new morals police?

Are we going back to the days when the cops raided queer clubs and harassed street queens?


by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

AUGSUST 31, 2015 — “What the hell?!” I screamed at the computer screen as I read about Homeland Security agents carrying out boxes of files during last week’s raid on a New York-based queer website escort service called Rentboy.com.

That raid netted $1.4 million in seized assets. Seven employees were arrested and are being charged under the Travel Act, a federal law that prohibits promoting prostitution. They could face up to five to ten years in jail.

Why was an outfit supposedly established to protect our country from terrorists engaging in this type of activity? Are queer escorts “terrorists” in the eyes of the folks at Homeland Security? Who made the decision to raid that particular website’s offices? Did the fact that it’s queer play into that decision?

Is Homeland Security our new morals police? Is it going to replace the old police department vice squads that used to raid gay bars and cruising areas and harass and arrest street queens back when I came out? 

LGBT organizations have been quick to condemn the raid. Said Russell Roybal, deputy executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force: “Criminalization puts the livelihoods, health and lives of sex workers in jeopardy. It’s time for our federal justice system to get its priorities straight and it’s time once and for all to decriminalize sex work.”

“As LGBT rights organizations in the United States,” said a joint statement from NLGBTQ, the Transgender Law Center, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Center for Transgender Equality, “we join to applaud and support Amnesty International’s recent resolution to protect the human rights of sex workers by calling for decriminalization of sex work, while simultaneously holding states accountable in preventing and combatting sex trafficking, ensuring that sex workers are protected from exploitation, and enforcing laws against the sexual exploitation of children.”

I stand with the workers at Rentboy.com. I support their right to control their own bodies. I support their right to make a living and pay their rent and be safe in their workplaces and their livelihoods, as we all should be. I support their right not to get thrown into the criminal “justice” system by a puritanical dominant Christian culture that both hates and is obsessed by sex and that makes sex work illegal, even as powerful members of that Christian culture (including politicians and televangelists) utilize the services of the same sex workers whose work they criminalize and condemn.

It’s a hypocrisy that puts sex workers at risk from a whole array of dangers, including physical and psychological violence, extortion, harassment by the police, arrest (in some places) for carrying condoms, and rape.

Hypocrisy that, as the Harm Reduction Coalition (a group that advocates for health care and services for drug users) notes on its website, “harms the most vulnerable sex workers, including sexual and gender minorities, as well as people with limited economic resources and people of color who are already disproportionately impacted by policing and mass incarceration.”

It’s a no-brainer. Sex work should be decriminalized. And Homeland Security should mind its own damn business.

There will be a protest of the raid on Saturday September 5 at 1pm at Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro and Market. Check for updates here.


Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Agree. Most policies of de facto/explicit prohibition make things worse. Legalize drugs, prostitution, and machine guns too. I’m not even kidding…

  2. Nixon was a despicable man, extending the war to win election, and, of course, the Watergate scandal. He wasn’t great, but he signed some fantastic environmental laws, broke the ice with China and did many other things that I support.

    Obama also is troubling, continuing the Bush doctrine of wiretapping and Guantanamo, etc, and now this, but he has also done some pretty amazing things given the idiot Republicans he has to deal with.

    I don’t live in your simplistic and idiotic binary world where everything is great or awful and nothing in-between.

  3. You maligned Tommi by writing that he is “prejudiced against those who choose to be spiritual and theistic” which is untrue.

    Congratulations on hijacking another comments thread with your bigotry, small mindedness and trolldom, Sam.

    Your new hat is a good fit.

  4. “How can Tommi’s comments about Christians be taken any other way?”

    Tommi didn’t implicate all Christians, nor all “those who choose to be and theistic” as your comment suggests. That connotes idiocy and reading/comprehension issues.

  5. I’ve complained loudly and often about Obama. But my comment was in response to the idiotic comment by Sam/Madhatters.

  6. How can Tommi’s comments about Christians be taken any other way? I’m not Christian but nor would I refer to them as “puritanical”. That connotes prejudice.

  7. Prostitution causes problems at all socio-economic levels. But the more power you have, the more serious the problems can be.

  8. Keep licking Obama’s boots – I’m sure he’ll continue to reward you!

    Looking forward to Homeland Security shutting down the Folsom Street Fair!

  9. I agree. What I’m wondering is if there is more to this story? Could this be a strategic move in some high-level, secret war of strategies between superpowers and business leaders?

  10. “Even leaving aside his blatant prejudice against those who choose to be spiritual and theistic. . .”

    There goes your credibility down the drain.

  11. Uh, the removal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Attorney General’s office support for LGBT laws, the granting of Social Security benefits to same-sex partners who may not be legally married in their state of residence, I can think of at least 100 times where Obama squandered “political capital” on LGBTs.

    Is that you Sam?

  12. Same with the blacks. Over 90% of them voted for Obama but he has nothing to gain from being favorable to them, and everything to lose.

    Blacks and gays have nowhere else to go, so why would any US president squander political capital on them? You guys have been sold a crock.

  13. Even the deviantly precious Tommi admits that “powerful members of that Christian culture (including politicians and televangelists) utilize the services of the same sex workers”

    Even leaving aside his blatant prejudice against those who choose to be spiritual and theistic, that strikes me as an admission that he understands the national security risk created by sex workers and their nasty trade.

    Google the Profumo Affair.

  14. Visiting hookers is still a problem even if it is legal. It exposes the john to blackmail threats which, if he is in a position of power, can expose the nation to a security problem, pace Profumo.

  15. Your key word is “illicit.” Prohibition doesn’t work. It creates crime and criminals, ruins lives, swells the prison population, and wastes millions.

  16. I am comfortable with this raid. Illicit sex work leads to opportunities for blackmail and subversion which could harm the national interest. It’s a security issue. Read up on the Profumo Affair.

  17. Remember to send Obama a thank-you note, gays!

    You voted for him, and now he doesn’t need you anymore!

Comments are closed.

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