Yesterday, Wednesday, July 9, the District of Columbia Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on the Repeal of Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act of 2014 (B20-760). The act was introduced by Councilmembers David Grosso, David Catania, and Mary M. Cheh in April following a review of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)’s handling of hate crimes. A coalition of LGBT groups, including NCTE, performed this review and followed it up with recommendations for reforms at MPD and to D.C. law, including the repeal of prostitution free zones (PFZs).
During Wednesday’s hearing, Deputy Attorney General for Public Safety Andrew Fois reiterated the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)’s constitutional concerns and added that the office has “doubts about [the PFZ law’s] practical utility.” Fois stated that these misgivings arise from both the high standard of proof that is necessary to show intent to engage in sex work as well as the increasing role of online services in sex work, indicating that both the OAG and the MPD are in favor of the repeal bill.
Prostitution free zones were passed into law in 2006, but after the OAG expressed concerns in early 2012 that they might be unconstitutional, the MPD has avoided designating any space as a PFZ. Though PFZs have not been in use for over two years, organizations like HIPS and the D.C. Trans Coalition strongly support repeal, given that the mere existence of a PFZ law in D.C. enables police profiling and has inspired similar laws in other municipalities around the country
NCTE applauds the OAG’s and the MPD’s support for the repeal act.
Sample Email Message:
I am writing today in support of Bill B20-760 co-introduced by Councilmembers Grosso, Catania, and Cheh and co-sponsored by Councilmember Wells, which would repeal the discriminatory Prostitution Free Zones provision from the D.C. Code.
Prostitution Free Zones promote the unfair profiling of DC’s most vulnerable communities and create an atmosphere of mistrust toward the Metropolitan Police Department. Repealing this law will assist with the process of repairing relations between DC’s transgender community and the police, and open the door for more meaningful conversation about issues related to sex work.