WFF Wins Appeal in Federal Court

January 24, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that plaintiffs in the Woodhull Freedom Foundation’s (WFF’s) lawsuit against the United States have standing to pursue claims. This decision guarantees sex worker rights advocates their day in court. The suit brought by Woodhull, Human Rights Watch, The Internet Archive, and two other plaintiffs is a constitutional challenge to the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which chills speech and harms sex workers. Since President Donald Trump signed FOSTA into law on April 11, 2018, sex workers have been erased from the platforms they previously used to schedule and screen their clients, share resources, and advocate for their safety and health.

A lower court dismissed the lawsuit last year, but the plaintiffs appealed. DSW’s Melissa Broudo and J. Leigh Brantly authored an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit, which was filed by DSW before the oral arguments in October of last year. The brief was instrumental in the appeal being granted, reviving Woodhull’s challenge to FOSTA. The U.S. Court of Appeals has ordered that the constitutional challenge be sent back to U.S. District Court for a ruling on the merits of the case. DSW will continue to support their motion.

U.S. Court of Appeals found that two of the four plaintiffs have adequate standing. Through her website Rate That Rescue, Alex Andrews established an Article III injury-in-fact because she has alleged intention to engage in conduct with constitutional interest. U.S. Court of Appeals found that Eric Koszyk, a licensed massage therapist living in Portland, Oregon, had also established adequate Article III standing. The passage of FOSTA and the shutdown of Craigslist “Therapeutic Services” section directly negatively impacted Koszyk’s ability to find clients and make a living. Significantly, the courts also found that if FOSTA were repealed, Mr. Koszyk’s predicament would be remedied.

“We are thrilled with the victory in this incredibly important case,” said Ricci Levy, President and CEO of Woodhull. “We are committed to fighting this unconstitutional and dangerous law to the end.” The Woodhull team and their allies have worked tirelessly on this critical case.

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey authored an op-ed on the implications that this case has for the health and safety of vulnerable communities everywhere. The decision can be accessed here — Monitor WFF’s Lawsuit Against FOSTA page for further updates.

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey is pictured with Woodhull’s legal team at the oral arguments last year. (Photo: DSW, 2019)

Activist and organizer Alex Andrews, of Rate That Rescue and SWOP Behind Bars, is one of the plaintiffs that the Appellate Court found to have injury-in-fact standing. Ms. Andrews (far left) is pictured here with (L to R) J. Leigh Brantly, Melissa Broudo, and Kaytlin Bailey of DSW and author and activist Dan Savage of the podcast Savage Love. (Photo: DSW, 2019)

Adult Entertainment Industry Supports DSW in the Fight Against Stigma

January 22-25, 2020

DSW attended the Adult Video News (AVN) Awards Conference in Las Vegas. At this annual expo, meet-and-greet, and awards show, members of the adult entertainment industry exhibit their latest work, newest products, and talk about business initiatives. J. Leigh Brantly, Melissa Broudo, and Kaytlin Bailey presented on DSW’s work at the expo.

DSW’s presence highlighted the critical connection between labor rights for both legal and criminalized sex workers. We were encouraged by the supportive reception DSW received at the expo, as well as the valuable allies garnered by our presence there—folks at the intersection of law enforcement, mobility-impaired clients of sex workers, and other adult performers and activists.

Politicians have long demonized the porn industry, implementing repressive labor policies that pose barriers to fair wages, rights, and safety. Sex workers are standing together to fight for their rights. Elizabeth Nolan Brown from Reason visited DSW’s booth at the expo and interviewed Kaytlin Bailey. “We are all stigmatized as sex workers,” says Bailey. “There are a lot of people here that told me that SESTA-FOSTA was the thing that got them to contact their senator for the first time, or got them to vote or pay attention to politics.” 

The most substantial barrier in the realization of rights for all sex workers, criminalized and otherwise, is stigma. FOSTA/SESTA is only the newest form of legal discrimination against the industry. The law is designed to target “any web content that promotes or facilitates prostitution.” In practice, this heavily censors the work of legal adult entertainers as well as full-service sex workers. Many of the cash apps entertainers use are censored, as well as their social media accounts, making it impossible for workers to advertise safely or accept payment.

A huge thank you to the AVN community for supporting DSW and sex workers everywhere.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown captures Kaytlin Bailey at DSW’s expo booth. (Photo: Reason, 2020)

Melissa Broudo, Kaytlin Bailey, and J. Leigh Brantly (left to right) at DSW’s expo booth. (Photo: DSW, 2020)

DSW’s Melissa Broudo (front left) and J. Leigh Brantly (front right) are pictured at a strategy breakfast with Barb Brents of UNLV (back left) and journalist and adult entertainment actress Siouxsie Q (back right). (Photo: DSW, 2020)

2019 In Review: DSW Concludes Its First Year

January 1, 2020

This month marks Decriminalize Sex Work’s first full calendar year as a national advocacy organization. It is hard to believe how fast it has gone!

Since DSW’s founding in the spring of 2019, our organization has:

1. Helped New Hampshire activists promote a study commission on sex work and human trafficking in the state, and offered expert testimony at numerous hearings;

2. Submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation to support its constitutional challenge of SESTA/FOSTA;

3. Participated in a successful hearing with internationally recognized experts on the subject of sex work and trafficking in Rhode Island;

4. Hosted a Unity Reception at the Cornell Club in New York City, at which speakers included Dame Catherine Healy of New Zealand and Ceyenne Doroshow;

5. Provided expert testimony in a hearing to fully decriminalize sex work in Washington, D.C.;

6. Partnered with local sex worker rights advocates on legislative initiatives and community outreach efforts in NH, RI, WA, HI, CA, VT, and DC;

7. Established a grants program for sex worker rights activists and organizations around the country — five different individuals and organizations, spanning the country from Hawaii to New Hampshire, received grants to further the cause of decriminalizing sex work;

8. Attended and exhibited at the following national and international conferences:

  • South by Southwest 2019;
  • The Seattle Annual Sex Worker Summit;
  • Law and Society Association Conference;
  • National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting;
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers 2019 Defending Sex Crimes Seminar;
  • Woodhull Freedom Foundation’s 2019 Sexual Freedom Summit;
  • 2019 International Human Trafficking and Social Justice conference;
  • American Public Health Association’s annual international conference;
  • American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2019 policy summit;
  • and the National Organization for Women’s New York state conference.

 

DSW is gaining momentum. We have expanded our team from six to nine dedicated members and doubled our budget to accommodate a growing number of exciting initiatives. Through mailing lists, social media, and personal and professional partnerships, our outreach touches thousands of advocates around the world. We participate in coalitions and initiatives supporting sex workers, trafficking survivors, LGBTQ, TGNC, and migrant rights across the country.

This month we met with lobbyists working to pass two incredible decriminalization bills in Vermont, and we are assisting the New York Public Advocate’s office in drafting a Sex Worker Bill of Rights. DSW has expanded its grants program to better serve the incredible work activists are already pursuing nationwide.

It is because of supporters like you that DSW can have the impact that it does. Thank you for believing in this organization and following our journey. If you are able, please consider donating via DSW’s website to help us continue fighting for the rights, health, and safety of sex workers and their communities in the United States.

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey testifies before the Council of the D.C. city council in support of legislation to decriminalize adult sex work.

L to R: DSW’s J. Leigh Brantly, Melissa Broudo, Kaytlin Bailey, Crystal DeBoise, and Avery Manuel pose with Dame Catherine Healy on May 2 at the Cornell Club.

DSW's Kaytlin Bailey is pictured with Ricci Levy, WFF's CEO, president, and former executive director named the lead plaintiff in the Woodhull v. USA case, as well as the team from Davis Wright Tremain Law Firm, litigating the suit. (L to R: Larry Walter, Ricci Levy, Robert Corn-Revere, Kaytlin Bailey and Ronald G London; Photo: DSW, 2019)

Kate Mogulescu, Esq., lead attorney for the ABA Survivor Reentry Project; Jillian Modzeleski, Esq., senior trial attorney for Human Trafficking Intervention Court; Dame Catherine Healy; Jill McCracken, PhD; Scott Cunningham, PhD; and Melissa Broudo, Esq. (L to R) work to prepare for their testimony before the RI House Judiciary Committee.

DSW's Melissa Broudo and Frances Steele work the table at the APHA expo.

DSW Staffers Participate in LGBTQI and Sex Worker Rights Panel

December 18, 2019

DSW’s Melissa Broudo and J. Leigh Brantly participated in the NY Transgender Advocacy Group’s LGBTQI Winter Cocktail Policy Series. Melissa and J spoke on a panel entitled “Reclaiming Our Bodies,” the first of three community-building, focused policy discussions. The event brought together LGBTQI community members and allies to learn about the intersection between sex workers’ rights and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, intersex, transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people, communities of color, and other vulnerable individuals.

Not only do members of these communities overlap, but they face common vulnerabilities: intense criminalization, state-sponsored violence, increased risk of exposure to STIs, and barriers to healthcare. An enthusiastic and interactive discussion highlighted the history of overlap and alliances between LGBTQ+ and sex worker activism, how these movements have diverged, and how our communities can support and advocate for one another.

Sex workers have been involved in the gay rights movement since its origin. In 1970, transgender sex workers Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, leaders of the 1969 Stonewall riots, founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). For many LGBT individuals, participation in street economies can be critical to survival. This is particularly true for LGBT youth and transgender women of color, who face family rejection and vastly disproportionate rates of violence, homelessness, and discrimination in employment, housing, and education. 

LGBTQ organizations like LAMBDA Legal, The Transgender Law Center, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAAD), and others have endorsed full decriminalization, as have human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and UNAIDS. These organizations understand that decriminalizing sex work is the best way to protect against exploitation, including human trafficking.

Melissa and J bring 25+ years of combined experience in activism and advocacy. Their diverse areas of expertise—Melissa as a lawyer and public-health expert, and J. Leigh as a genderqueer, multiracial researcher, speaker, and former sex worker—allowed for a well-rounded and holistic discussion.

DSW is grateful to the Gender Diversity Coalition and NYTAG community members who participated in the panel or otherwise attended. Thoughtful and productive discussions like these are essential to the work that we do. The importance of the LGBTQ+ community’s support cannot be overstated.

DSW’s Melissa Broudo (right) describes the significant historical overlap between the sex worker rights movement and LGBTQ/TGNC activism.

Panel participants pose for a selfie following the discussion.

DSW Honors International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17, 2019

DSW joined sex-worker-rights activists around the world in honoring the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, which takes place annually on December 17. This holiday mourns the lives of far too many sex workers who are lost to violence, stigma, and discrimination in a criminalized environment.

DSW participated in three events across the country. In NY, DSW’s Crystal DeBoise and Frances Steele volunteered at Judson Memorial Church’s annual vigil. Melissa Broudo and J. Leigh Brantly joined allies in Providence at COYOTE RI’s vigil, while Kaytlin Bailey attended SWOP-NH’s event in Manchester.

Community leader and activist Veronica Vera organized the event at Judson Memorial Church. At Judson, activists and allies lit candles for the 51 U.S. sex workers who passed away in the last 12 months, and they commemorated the 215 lives lost around the world. Crystal DeBoise was invited to speak about her renowned anti-trafficking work at the Soar Institute, the Sex Workers Project (SWP), the founding of Human Trafficking Services Program at NYANA in 2002, and the co-founding of DSW.

Our tireless colleague and the founder of COYOTE’s RI chapter, Bella Robinson, organized the Providence event. Speeches from the vigil were taped and are posted here. Melissa Broudo and J. Leigh Brantly were honored to attend.

Ashley Fires from SWOP-NH organized an intimate gathering in Manchester to mourn the loss of life within the sex work community. Kaytlin read her new one-woman show, A Whore’s Eye View, as part of the vigil, celebrating the history of the sex-workers-rights movement.

The December 17 holiday was first observed in 2003 as a memorial vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle. Vulnerability to violence and the experience of violence is an unfortunate reality for many sex workers around the world, as they confront varying levels of criminality and stigmatization. The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) compiles an annual list of sex workers who have lost their lives, along with biographical info about each individual. The list can be accessed on the December 17 website.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that 40% of sex workers have experienced an increase in violence since the passage of the federal FOSTA/SESTA law in April 2018.

DSW’s Melissa Broudo and J. Leigh Brantly are pictured with Bella Robinson (center back) and fellow activists from COYOTE RI.

The New York vigil was held at Judson Memorial Church. DSW’s Frances Steele and Crystal DeBoise are pictured with activists from around the country. Organizer and long-time movement leader Veronica Vera stands at the center of the group in red.

Veronica Vera reads the names of sex workers who have passed away in the United States in the last year.

A compilation of photos from the New Hampshire event on December 17. In the top left, DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey performs her new show on the history of sex work. In the top right, activists from SWOP New Hampshire are pictured together.

DSW Attends Two Key Conferences

December 4-6, 2019

Kaytlin Bailey shared DSW’s work at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC’s) Annual Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. ALEC is the largest voluntary membership organization of state legislators and private-sector representatives in the U.S.

DSW also attended the National Organization for Women’s (NOW’s) New York state conference to learn and exchange ideas around current efforts to combat human trafficking in the U.S. Kaytlin raised concerns about whether arresting consenting adults is actually helpful to trafficking survivors.

Kaytlin Bailey is pictured at DSW’s expo booth in Scottsdale.

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey (left) is pictured with Ana Maria Archila (right) from the Center for Popular Democracy.

DSW Welcomes Two Incredible New Team Members

December 1, 2019

DSW has gained two invaluable colleagues. Ceyenne Doroshow and J. Leigh Brantly will be joining the organization as Community Engagement Consultant and Research and Project Manager, respectively.

Ceyenne Doroshow is an author, activist, organizer, performer, and public figure in the trans and sex worker rights movements. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society (GLITS), an organization that works to provide holistic care to LGBTQ sex workers.

Ceyenne is an internationally renowned public speaker and has been featured in numerous international media outlets, TV shows, and documentaries such as The Red Umbrella DiariesMiss Major, Showtime’s Oz, and Netflix specials on sex worker rights. She has presented at The Desiree Alliance, Creating Change, Harm Reduction Coalition, International AIDS Conference, and many other events.

Her passion, warmth, respect, and tireless generosity have positioned Ceyenne as a thought leader in the sex worker rights movement, sharing her work and personal experiences as a black trans woman and former sex worker. She currently serves on the boards of Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA, Caribbean Equality Project, SOAR Institute, and the New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG).

At the intersection of policy, creativity, and research is where you will find multiracial genderqueer J. Leigh Brantly, who currently serves on advisory boards for GLITS and SOAR Institute and is the co-president of the New York State Gender Diversity Coalition. J. Leigh received the 2019 Marsha P. Johnson Community Leader Award from NYTAG and worked on an amicus brief with DSW’s Melissa Broudo to challenge the bad federal law known as FOSTA/SESTA.

J. Leigh has spoken at MOMA/PS1’s Sex Workers’ Festival of Resistance (with Ceyenne Doroshow and DSW’s Melissa Broudo) and the International AIDS Conference, and they co-curated sex worker films at both of these events. They have represented sex work on Showtime’s Billions and Fox’s The Following; been featured in TIME, VICE News, and TimeOUT NY; and spoken at the NYC Women’s Rally, sandwiched between Gloria Steinhem and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

In collaboration with the Colectivo Intercultural Transgrediendo, they co-produced SEXHUM, an ethnographic sex worker short film for an international academic research project, which was funded by the European Research Council. In 2021, they will begin a Ph.D. research program focusing on sex workers with physically (dis)abled clients.

Ceyenne Doroshow (second from right) and J. Leigh Brantly (far right) at the 2018 International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam with Jill McCracken, Ph.D. (center), Alex Andrews (right of center) of SWOP Behind Bars, and other sex worker activists.

Ceyenne and J. Leigh are powerhouses within the sex worker and TGNCNB communities. They have worked together at GLITS, spoken on panels together, and organized for sex worker/transgender rights. They collaborated on a study of transphobia and queerphobia experienced by LGBTQ sex workers for the Global Network of Sex Work Projects.

Both acted as advisors to the Museum of the City of New York, where Ceyenne’s groundbreaking cookbook (written while she was incarcerated on prostitution charges), Cooking in Heels, is now permanently featured in the museum’s transgender activism exhibit. With unparalleled expertise in media, advocacy, and harm-reduction work, DSW is fortunate to have them on board.

As DSW takes on additional initiatives, our organization is expanding its capacity to better serve the goals of the sex worker rights movement. The progress we have made in 2019 motivates us, and we look forward to continuing the momentum into the new year.

Ceyenne Doroshow: Author, activist, spokesperson, and public figure in the sex worker and transgender rights movements

J. Leigh Brantly: Researcher, filmmaker, and organizer