SF Newspaper Spotlights Maxine Doogan, Sex Work Decriminalization

SAN FRANCISCO—Maxine Doogan, whose long battle to decriminalize prostitution finally went to a federal court in October, was back in the news in San Francisco this week, when spotlighted the activist and her court case—which, if Doogan prevails, would clear the way for legal sex work not only in California, but in other states as well.

Read ’s latest coverage of Doogan’s lawsuit, ESPLERP v. Gascon, by clicking on this link. ESPLERP is the organization Sex Workers and Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project, founded by Doogan in San Francisco after the failure of a California ballot proposition to decriminalize sex work in 2008.

The lawsuit brought by ESPLERP, which went before the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 19, banning prostitution as unconstitutional on the grounds that those laws invade the privacy of consenting adults.

“People should be able to charge for [sex], and people should be able to pay for it,” Doogan told the Beacon. “And prostitution is a prolific activity, and it continues today, so all these laws against it don’t really work anyway.”

At least one judge on the Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel appeared sympathetic with that point of view when the case was argued in October, asking in the hearing, “Why should it be illegal to sell something that is legal to give away?”

Judge Carlos Bea’s question seemed to go right to the heart of Doogan’s own argument in favor of removing criminal penalties from prostitution.

“In capitalist America, you can charge for everything,” she told the Beacon.

When the Ninth Circuit will issue a decision in the ESPLERP case is unclear, but according to some experts, the appellate judges the case back to the lower courts for a trial, rather that issue a definitive ruling of its own.