CA lawsuit hopes to decriminalize prostitution

Carolyn Tyler Image
ByCarolyn Tyler KGO logo
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Prostitutes file suit against California
Maxine Doogan is one of three prostitutes who has filed suit against the state of California saying their First Amendment rights are violated.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An unusual lawsuit has been filed against the state of California. It's being brought by three prostitutes and a client who say their First Amendment rights are violated by laws banning what they do.

The lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. It names California Attorney General Kamala Harris and four bay area district attorneys.

"I've been working as a prostitute for 20 plus years," Maxine Doogan said.

Doogan is the force behind what she calls "prostitute nation" and the three colleagues and a client who have filed a lawsuit, arguing California's anti-prostitution law is unconstitutional.

"Were adults and we can make decisions about our sexuality. We think it's protected under the first amendment the right to free speech, right to sexual privacy," Doogan said.

But what about sex workers who are not consenting. San Francisco is a hub for human trafficking.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is one of four Bay Area district attorney's named in the lawsuit.

"There are people victimized on a daily basis, under duress, beaten. Having said that I don't negate the fact there may be some consenting workers and if there are, how do we differentiate one from the other," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said.

In 2008, San Francisco voters weighed in on the issue of decriminalizing prostitution and decided against it. But the plaintiff's attorney believes relaxed marijuana laws and same sex marriage are signs times have changed.

"We've seen a big shift in the country lately in terms of people's autonomy," plaintiff attorney D.Gill Sperlein said.

Emily Murase with the Department on the Status of Women calls prostitution modern day slavery.

"There are women involved in the sex trade against their will and we need to do everything to liberate them," Murase said.

Ironically the word liberate is one that the plaintiff's use in their GoFundMe campaign. The world's oldest profession has raised more than $30,000 by turning to new technology.