Could Vermont become the next Nevada? Bill to decriminalize prostitution on the table

Vermont lawmakers are considering a bill that would legalize prostitution in the state, as conservatives remain staunchly against the progressive idea that is being pushed increasingly mainstream around the United States.

The proposal to legalize sex work is sponsored by four female lawmakers and is currently pending in the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Selene Colburn, a cosponsor on the bill and a member of the Progressive Party, said decriminalizing sex work would improve the health and safety of prostitutes. 

The underlying question is do we need to criminalize consensual sex between adults on any terms?

She added that prostitutes should feel they have the “protection of the police if they need it.” Other sponsors on the bill are Diana Wolnooski, Maxine Grad and Emilie Kornheiser. 

Nevada is currently the only jurisdiction in the United States to allow some prostitution. There are active brothels in seven counties in the state.

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There is a growing push though from left-wing liberals and more Libertarian-minded conservatives to legalize sex work in more jurisdictions. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is a senator from Vermont, said last summer that he would be open to decriminalizing prostitution.

The Libertarian Party has also endorsed decriminalizing sex work, but their 2016 candidate, Gary Johnson, received less than four percent of the popular vote in the election, so one could argue the ideas of the party are not exactly mainstream.

There was even a bill introduced to decriminalize prostitution in Washington DC last year. In a fierce debate more than 100 people testified for and against it. The DC Council Committee ultimately did not vote on the bill.

Some argue that decriminalizing prostitution will increase the demand for sex workers, which will increase the demand for human trafficking, a point made in a Harvard Law and International Development report.

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Colburn and others believe though that by decriminalizing the act, the government is not driving sex workers “underground” and they would essentially be ending black markets and giving protections to those who take part in the exchange.

Social conservatives, however, remain staunchly against the idea of legalizing sex work, accusing the ‘pimp lobby’ of seeking to increase their profits from sex trade rather than carrying for anyone’s safety or wellbeing.

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