States Making Change
Unlike the federal legislature, many state legislatures don't operate year-round, so 'tis the season for state legislation. This year is seeing a slew of state laws that impact folks who trade sex in a variety of ways, and where sex workers are showing up to champion change.
In Oregon, Senate bill 596 would protect sex workers, including those experiencing trafficking, from prosecution for prostitution when they report report certain crimes.
The bill is similar to one in California, SB233: Improved Sex Worker Health and Safety, based on a policy passed in San Francisco last year after years of work by groups like St James Infirmary, BAYSWAN and US Pros. If you want to show your support for SB233, write a letter here.
In Florida, SWOP chapters have been advocating on a bill which includes a number of anti-trafficking provisions. The advocates have had success getting removed a draconian provision which would create a "registry" of those convicted of solicitation (which covers both buying and selling sex), and are now pushing to include an immunity provision similar to San Francisco's, and the inclusion of sex workers in the development of anti-trafficking trainings.
And for sex workers in New York who are looking to get involved in the @DecrimNY campaign, here's your chance:
Health is a Human Right
A great ally for sex worker rights, AIDS United brought together 550 folks for AIDSWatch, the largest HIV advocacy event in the country. Included in those issues was a presentation on SESTA/FOSTA's impact over the last year.
And then the Feds...
But everyone knows that folks who trade sex have much larger lives which are impacted by more than just laws that govern sex work.
This week, two huge pieces of Federal legislation started moving, and are worth watching. The Violence Against Women Act was voted out of the House of Representatives on Thursday, with widespread support. The bill includes provisions to expand the definition of who can be banned from buying a firearm, as well as expanding financial aid for victims who wish to stay in their homes after a domestic violence situation, but has been critiqued for its resulting increase in policing and carceral approaches to violence.
Also in the House is the Equality Act, which would include protections for LGBTQ individuals in the existing Federal civil rights law. The bill is currently in the Judiciary Committee, which held hearings on Tuesday. Have a good cry watching why Rep. Jayapal (D-WA7) supports the bill.
Now here's what you might not have heard much about but it's a thing:
The Administrative side (the President-led branch of government) Tuesday saw the close of the public comment period on a proposed rule change on SNAP, which could affect hundreds of thousands of people.
It's wonky, but here's why it's important:
The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, gives some funding to folks who are strapped and could use a little help. There are eligibility requirements, but if you're in a bind, know it's there, and know how many of us have hit a rough patch at some point. The program is operated by the USDA. Since it's a Federal agency, every time they change the rules on SNAP, they have to open up a place where everyone can give comments on what they think the impact will be, whether they support it, oppose the change. Under Trump the USDA proposed to cut benefits after three months for able-bodied adults without dependents (that's a specific category defined by the government) who didn't "work, volunteer or get job training for at least 20 hours a week."
Mostly, it'll kick people off food stamps and hurt a lot of folks. The comment period closed with over 28,000 comments, most of them in opposition to the change, including anti-poverty organizations and LGBTQ orgs. So now - cross your fingers.
And back to the grind.