Oregon was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. Voters also approved Measure 110 that stripped many penalties for possession of a controlled substance.
Would Oregonians be open to decriminalizing sex work?
That’s the question a new ballot initiative is asking. The proposed measure is the “Sex Workers Rights Act.” It repeals the crimes of prostitution in Oregon. It protects people who are or were sex workers from discrimination. It reads in part, “...consensual, adult behavior that does not cause harm should not be criminalized.” And more. You can read it here: tinyurl.com/sexworkpetition.
Supporters would need more than 112,000 signatures to get it on the ballot.
It’s similar to a bill that was introduced earlier this year that would have repealed the crimes in Oregon of prostitution, commercial sexual solicitation and promoting prostitution. It would have decriminalized selling sex or buying it. It was not legalization. It removed penalties. Laws regarding compelling or coercing prostitution, trafficking and minors would remain.
What happened to it? That bill went about as nowhere as a bill can. It essentially just sat in committee.
It was introduced by state Rep. Bob Nosse, D-Portland. We contacted to talk about his reasoning behind the bill but never got an interview. He filed the bill at the request of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, he told Willamette Week. That’s a New York City-based law clinic to help sex workers and trafficking victims.
That bill and this petition have also been backed by an Oregonian, Aaron Boonshoft. “Sex worker rights are human rights, and the denial of those rights enables human trafficking,” Boonshoft has said. We don’t know much about him. The campaign describes him as a philanthropist and a client of consensual sex work. Willamette Week reported he is the son of a wealthy commodities trader from Ohio.
Would decriminalizing sex work help protect sex workers and make Oregon better? We are not going to tell you what you should think about this idea. But think about it. It may be coming to the ballot.