Prostitution has been illegal in California since 1872.
Back then, the original statute referenced “vagrants,” a word lawmakers at the time said included “every lewd and dissolute person, who lives in and about houses of ill-fame, and every common prostitute.”
Since then, the law has been repealed and replaced, leading to the current version that defines prostitution as “any lewd act between persons for money or other consideration.”
Despite the law’s 145-year history, some sex workers say it’s high time California did away with it entirely. Engaging in sexual activity for money isn’t simply the (illegal) choice they’ve made to earn a living. They say it’s their right.
A California case now pending in federal court poses that argument. A sex workers’ advocacy group seeking to decriminalize prostitution is challenging longstanding state law, saying it violates constitutional protections on free speech, freedom of association and due process.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the matter this month.