Nevada Residents Spar Over Brothels

Gretchen Gallen
PAHRUMP, Nev. – To brothel or not to brothel, that is the question for many Nevada residents this week as they spar over whether to add a question to the November ballot that would effectively kill off the brothel industry in part of the only state with legalized prostitution.

The first county to cast its vote on the controversial issue is Nye County, which officially decided this week not to put the question on the ballot that would have asked voters whether houses of ill repute should be made illegal or not.

Nye County, a community 60 miles west of Las Vegas, has the state's largest number of brothels in Nevada.

The decision was cast by the Nye County Commission in a close 3-2 vote, mainly out of grievances with the display of sexually explicit billboards throughout the county that have upset citizens.

As a compromise, the commission has requested that a district attorney review the ordinance that enables statewide brothels to function as legal businesses.

Among the many changes the commission is requesting, Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo has asked the district attorney to amend the ordinance so that law enforcement can more easily monitor the activities of brothel patrons and owners and make sure that buildings are kept up to code.

"There are so many gray areas there (in the ordinance) that they (owners) don't even know what they can do and can't do," DeMeo told the commission.

Nevada is the only state that has legalized prostitution, however brothels are only allowed to operate in the counties that have adopted their own brothel ordinances. The district attorney will submit ordinance changes within the next 90 days.

The commotion over brothels began in May with a group of outraged citizens in Churchill County, Nevada, that rallied enough fellow residents to add a question to the ballot asking fellow voters if they think a portion of the county code that makes brothels legal should be repealed.

Calling themselves the "The Coalition to Keep Brothels Out of Churchill County," the anti-brothel activists delivered more than 1,200 signatures to the county clerk's office.

Only six Nevada counties do not allow brothels, whereas counties like Storey and Carson City are home to some of the most famous brothels in the world, including the Moonlight Bunny Ranch, the Chicken Ranch, the Wild Horse Ranch, the Cherry Patch and the Kit Kat Ranch.