Supporters of the plan’s vote initiative to repeal Oregon’s prostitution laws

Whether Oregon will remove prostitution from its criminal laws could be put directly to the public next year after a bill that would have done so was not removed from committee.

This is a next step that was hinted at by the sex worker advocacy group that introduced the bill in Oregon in the first place. Any ballot initiative will proceed without their involvement, but other advocates across the country are helping Oregon’s effort.

“It seems highly unlikely that the legislature will act as quickly as the people would on this massive miscarriage of justice,” said Ted Blaszak, a voting initiative consultant helping with the decriminalization effort.

Dr Angela Jones, professor of sociology at the State University of New York was one of more than a dozen speakers at the first press conference held by the new Oregon Sex Worker Committee after supporters of the decriminalization of sex work presented testimony in a brief briefing hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday afternoon.

“Decades of research unequivocally show that criminalization makes sex workers less secure, contributing to violence, poor health outcomes, banking discrimination and housing,” [and] stigma. And driving third-party exploiters underground only makes them harder and more expensive to catch them, ”Jones told lawmakers. “Moreover, criminalization has had the most negative effects on the most marginalized. “

Since State Representative Rob Nosse (D-Portland) introduced Bill 3088, several other Oregon lawmakers have joined him in supporting decriminalization. Representatives Wlnsvey Campos (D-Aloha) and Dacia Grayber (D-Tigard) have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, and Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland / Beaverton) has declared her support for decriminalization.

The national organization that brought HB 3088 to Nosse, the New York-based Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, hired initiative consultant Blaszak in January. Blaszak says the SWP has pulled out of decriminalization efforts in the state and is now working for Oregon sex worker organizers.

The Oregon philanthropist who donated $ 1.2 million to the SWP for its Oregon-specific project Decrimwork initiative — Aaron Boonshoft, whose own organization is called Sex work rights– “explores many options for a change of policy” according to its spokesperson. A request for comment from the SWP was not returned Thursday evening.

Speakers at the information hearing included Nicole Gililland, a former adult artist who filed a Title IX lawsuit against Southwestern Oregon Community College, accusing school instructors of discriminating against her because of her work. prior. Amy-Marie Merrell, Executive Director of the Cupcake Girls, recalled the 2004 sexual assault convictions against Eugene police officers Roger magana and Juan Francisco Lara, which targeted sex workers and drug addicts.

“I am delighted that you have a briefing hearing on this topic,” Nosse said. “I know it’s a conversation that can be sensitive and even provocative for some, but I think it’s a conversation we need to have.”

Representative Janelle Bynum, who chairs the judiciary, thanked several of the witnesses for their courage in speaking about their experiences. His only question was whether one of the purposes of decriminalization was similar to those of the so-called “good samaritan” laws which, in his example, give underage drinkers a loophole from the consequences if they are caught breaking a law. law while pointing out another, more serious one. , criminality. In fact, Oregon has already passed such a bill in 2019, granting immunity from prosecution for prostitution charges where the proof of such accusation would result from the report of a “misdemeanor”.

Subsequently, a press conference held via Zoom featured a list of speakers including sex workers with experience in creating and working on New Zealand’s repeal of criminalization, researchers , lawyers who work with victims of trafficking and singer-songwriter Storm Large.

A sex worker named Bella said law enforcement failed to protect her and instead targeted her in a “human trafficking operation” and arrested and charged her with prostitution. The subsequent publication of her photo ID affected her future employment prospects and compromised her security, she said.

A press release from the Oregon Sex Workers Committee for Thursday’s conference said the committee was moving forward with work on a 2022 ballot initiative, which its poll found would have the support of 68% of Oregonians. .

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