SAN FRANCISCO — The ESPLER Project today appealed an order that dismissed its legal challenge to California’s anti-prostitution law, Penal Code 647(b).
Along with the appeal filed today, the Bay Area organization announced it would use crowdfunding resource Tilt.com to fundraise its legal efforts.
“We are confident that the merits of our case will finally be recognized and we will be granted our basic human rights,” ESPLER Project officials said today in a release. “[U.S. District ] Judge Jeffrey S. White’s decision was deeply flawed.”
It was “essentially a judge’s personal bias against sex worker rights in search of a legal justification,” ESPLER officials said. The court “also ignored the recommendations of a whole series of reputable international organizations, including 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.”
In a federal lawsuit, ESPLER Project contended that the anti-prostitution law law breaks both the federal and state constitutions. The state’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, and district attorneys of four counties last year were sued over the statute in a case asking for declaratory and injunctive relief to overturn California’s 54-year-old prostitution statute.
White in April granted Harris and the district attorneys’ motion to dismiss with leave to amend the complaint.
In ESPLER Project’s release today, the group cited Jerald Mosley, a former Calif. State Department of Justice, who said, “appeal of the trial court’s ruling is necessary to resist the denigration of sex workers and to affirm Lawrence v. Texas articulation of individuals’ right to privacy in their sexual conduct.”
Lawrence v. Texas is a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision that held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was protected by the 14th Amendment.
“The issue is whether we need to submit our personal relationships for court inspection before we are allowed to claim our constitutional right to privacy,”Mosley said.
Officials from the ESPLER Project — formally known as the Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education and Research Project, which advances “sexual privacy rights through litigation, education, and research” — said the case is mostly funded by individuals making small contributions.
“Our opponents — the state of California and various district attorneys — have very deep pockets, essentially using our taxpayer dollars to deny us our rights,” the officials said.
To donate to the ESPLER Project's legal fund for the appeal, click here.