March 1, 2023
Sex workers, allies, and advocates, including Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) Legal Director Melissa Broudo, DSW Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary, and DSW Consulting Attorney Allison Kollins gathered in the New York State House in Albany, NY, to urge legislators to decriminalize consensual adult sex work. DSW plays an active role in DecrimNY, a statewide coalition that organized the group’s visit to the Capitol. Approximately 100 individuals took part in DecrimNY’s Lobby Day which began with a press conference and also included numerous meetings with assembly members and senators.
“Sex Work is Work” could be heard throughout the State House during the press conference. The media heard from advocates including Elisa Crespo, executive director of The New Pride Agenda, and Jared Trujillo of The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). Sex workers and survivors of exploitation also spoke about the urgent need to decriminalize as did Senator Julia Salazar, lead Sponsor of S.4396, the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act (SVSTA) in New York. The bill would decriminalize consensual adult prostitution offenses and amend provisions relating to the prosecution of such offenses and vacating judgments. Senator Salazar introduced the bill in early February and it was referred to the Senate Codes Committee.
SVSTA’s co-sponsors include Senators Jabari Brisport, Kristen Gonzalez, Cordell Cleare, Robert Jackson, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos, Gustavo Rivera, and Luis R. Sepúlveda. SVSTA amends and repeals several existing statutes and penal codes so that consenting adults who trade sex, collaborate with, support, or patronize adult sex workers aren’t criminalized. In addition, the bill allows individuals to trade sex in spaces where legal business is permitted while upholding that maintaining exploitative workplaces where coercion and trafficking take place is a felony.
DecrimNY hosted several trainings and meetings prior to Lobby Day with the goal of preparing attendees. The trainings included information on current laws around sex work, as well as a briefing on the legislative process, how lobbying works, and how to lobby effectively.
Advocates were encouraged by the attention and momentum garnered by their presence in the Capitol on March 1. DSW will continue to work with elected officials, advocates, and DecrimNY to pass SVSTA, which was first introduced in 2019.