In our traditional spirit of transparency and accountability, we present the Erotic Service Providers Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) year end report. It was another busy year..! Please do ask if you would like more information on any item below.
Federal Court Case
For the past 3 years plus, our historic lawsuit ESPLERP v Gascon in the Federal court system has been a major focus. Looking back over that process, the major events were as follows.
- March 2015: We filed ESPLERP v Gascon [Case #16-15927] in District Court in Oakland.
- May 2016: The District Court, issued an Order dismissing our court case.
- May 2016: We filed our Notice of Appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- October 2016: We filed our original brief in the Ninth Circuit.
- November 2016: 36 civil rights and LGBT organizations, including the ACLU and Lambda Legal, filed 4 amicus (friend of the court) briefs supporting our arguments.
- October 2017: We had our “day in court” as the Ninth Circuit heard Oral Arguments. Board member Domina Elle posted a storify collection of live tweets by @AGoadEsq (an ACLU lawyer in Los Angeles), links to articles about the hearing, other related tweets, and video of the hearing, See also our Youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh1P670bv7af17B1zzKShdg – for additional highlights.
- January 2018: The Ninth Circuit issued a decision dismissing our case.
- May 2018: The Ninth Circuit declined to hear our case in an “en banc” hearing (before a larger 11 judge panel).
- July 2018: Justice Kennedy announces his retirement – and is replaced by Brett Cavanaugh. So we conclude that there is no sense in appealing to a Supreme Court that is increasingly hostile to civil rights.
Our arguments throughout have focused on the constitutional merits of the case; that American citizens have the right to sexual privacy. And we were supported by bodies like Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, The Lancet, Human Rights Watch, and the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law, all of which call for the decriminalization of sex work and recognize that consenting adults have the right to be free from state criminalization of their sex lives.
One notable feature of the whole process was that over time, we got more and more positive coverage in major outlets like the New York Times, CBS, Fox News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the UK Independent – https://esplerp.org/media/articles/. That coverage is saying that our position – that sex work should not be criminalized – is sensible and intellectually correct, and that will have shifted public opinion in our favour.
So we are now pivoting to new strategies – to advance the argument in other forums…
- California Court Case
We are currently reviewing the California Constitution and California state case law with a view to mounting a challenge against the same bad law (CA 647(b)), but this time through the California court system – starting in California Superior Court – https://avn.com/business/articles/legal/esplerp-attorney-explains-why-federal-prostitution-suit-dropped-789546.html
- Future applied challenge
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision made it clear that there is plenty of room for legal challenges to California Penal Code 647(b), and even 653.22 (Loitering with intent). This would entail one or more people who have actually been arrested and charged with these ‘crimes’ to plead not guilty, whereby a privacy defense could be made in a trial setting. And then in the event of a guilty conviction, the defendants would become eligible to appeal using the privacy clause of the California State Constitution via the California State Supreme Court and then the US Supreme Court.
San Mateo County Case
We provided court support for a San Mateo case – where the judge dismissed the case on the grounds that justice had been served by the case dragging on for almost 3 years, plus the fact that San Mateo County really didn’t have the courtroom space to adjudicate the damn thing (!).
California Senate Bill (SB) 1204 sought to expand the definition of “pandering” (a felony) to include acts that “promote or facilitate prostitution” – which puts our clients, friends, family and support staff on the line. But, after a storm of negative public comments, and support from some key allies within the Senate itself, it was withdrawn without a vote. Great Job everyone!
On May 22nd, five of us (from ESPLERP and the US PROStitutes Collective) spent the day in Sacramento educating the Senate and Assembly Members and/or their staff. We explained the Ninth Circuit ruling laid the responsibility to change the law in the legislators’ laps, and we explained the urgent need to change the law – to decriminalize – now in light of the recent passing of #FOSTA/SESTA law. We urged them to start the process of modernizing some of the literally Victorian-era laws – thanks to one of our volunteers who happens to also be a very busy law student!
Thank you to the nearly 30,000 supporters who signed our online petition, before we went to Sacramento, calling on legislators to decriminalize sex work – https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/452/675/928/.
We sent out 11 press releases during 2018, which resulted in a really high level of mentions and/or quotes in local, national and international media. For example, some of the articles about sex work that mention ESPLERP are collected at https://esplerp.org/media/articles/.
International Whores’ Day
On June 2nd, we organised a protest at Clusterfest for International Whores’ Day (also known as International Sex Workers Day – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Whores%27_Day) to audiences – specifically of Comedian Amy Schumer – know that ‘We’re Not Your Punchlines’. We received some really great press. check out https://esplerp.org/media/articles/.
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers 2018
December 17 was the 16th International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers (#IDEVASW). We joined with the USPROStitues Collective and sex workers, activists, allies and advocates, in demanding that San Francisco Police end harassment and prioritize the safety of sex workers, in a protest at the Mission Police Station on Valencia Street in San Francisco, California. We got great press in local papers – http://www.sfexaminer.com/sex-worker-advocates-demand-sfpd-shut-unit-focused-street-prostitution/.
Institute For Union Women
On July 10-14th, Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU), Kristen DeAngelio of SWOP Sacramento, and Domina Elle of ESPU/ESPLERP from Denver Colorado, attended the Institute for Union Women #SIUW2018 at Sonoma State.
Folsom Street Fair
On December 11, Folsom Street Events (FSE) awarded us $3467 as a “Supporting Beneficiary” providing volunteers for the 2018 Up Your Alley and Folsom Street Fair events. Thanks to all of the awesome volunteers who stepped up and provided the labor to make this income possible.
Demystifying Sex Work
On September 13th, Claire Alwyne participated in a Panel on “Demystifying Sex Work” at the Catalyst (http://leatheralliance.org/sf-catalyst/) in San Francisco – which was put on as part of the Leather Quest educational system (www.leatherquest.org). Some of the questions were a tad “entry level”, but Claire kept the conversation on the need for decriminalization through legislative and/or legal action.
During 2018 we raised $15,250.50 entirely from individual donors. We’ll have to increase this amount if we hope to bring another legal challenge.
We are still paying off legal costs associated with our historic lawsuit ESPLERP v Gascon. And we now need to raise funds to move forward on additional legal fronts – such as the California state court case. Your donations now will make the difference.
● Contribute online at litigatetoemancipate.com
● Hit the PayPal button at http://esplerp.org
● Mail checks to ESPLERP, 2261 Market Street # 548, San Francisco, CA 94114.
We so appreciate your support – both financially and in spreading the message that sex workers and clients have a right to sexual privacy. This is a bottom-up activist movement and we appreciate any feedback you might have for us. Thank you.
The Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) is a diverse community-based coalition advancing sexual privacy rights through litigation, education, and research.
Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP)
2261 Market St. #548, San Francisco, CA 94114