New York State would legalize the buying and selling of sex under a proposal reintroduced in the state Legislature that would lift criminal penalties for sex work.
The bill was announced Monday, but is not expected to get a vote before the Democrat-led Senate and Assembly plan to adjourn for the year next week.
Supporters say criminal penalties for prostitution have not worked, and that legalization would improve sex worker safety while reducing trafficking and exploitation.
Speaking at a press conference Monday, former and current sex workers talked about being forced into the industry as minors. They said many sex workers rely on their jobs to make ends meet, and that laws against prostitution only hurt vulnerable people with few other options.
"We only want to live, be free and be safe," said TS Candii, a former sex worker and current leader in the effort to decriminalize the industry. She said started selling sex at age 13 as a matter of survival.
The bill's sponsor in the Assembly, Manhattan Democrat Richard Gottfried, said outlawing prostitution has only forced sex workers into the shadows, where they can be exploited, trafficked and then punished for breaking the law.
An earlier bill was introduced in the Senate by Brooklyn Democrat Julia Salazar, chair of the Committee on Women's Health, but it was squashed by the governor.