Two different bills regarding decriminalizing aspects of sex work and sex workers are winding their way through the New York State Legislature: the Stop the Violence in the Sex Trades Act, and the Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act. Sex work, i.e., prostitution, is the exchange of money or something else of value for sexual services. The exact New York state definition can be found in Article 230 of the Penal Law. In contrast, human trafficking can be defined as sex workers who are coerced or forced to engage in sex work.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), held that consensual sexual conduct was part of the “personal and private life of the individual” and protected by the Constitution. Years later, in Erotic Serv. Provider Legal Educ. & Research Project v. Gascon, 880 F.3d 450, 454 (9th Cir. 2018), amended, 881 F.3d 792 (9th Cir. 2018), Judge Carlos Bea, one of the judges on the panel hearing the California case, is quoted as asking, “Why should it be illegal to sell something that it’s legal to give away?”