A bill that bans arrests for “loitering with the intent of prostitution” was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom during the weekend, formally ending the long-standing practice to crackdown on prostitution in cities across the state.
Senate Bill 357, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), will repeal all laws prohibiting loitering in a public place with the intent to commit prostitution, or directing, supervising, recruiting, or aiding a person who is loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, or collecting or receiving all or part of the proceeds of an act of prostitution. In addition, those who have been convicted of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution can now petition the court for dismissal and sealing of their offense or get it resentenced.
The bill, which received strong opposition from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers last year, narrowly passed both the Senate and Assembly. However, the high amount of concern caused Senator Wiener to halt moving the bill to the Governors desk last year, hoping to have time to have greater understanding of it, and how it aimed to stop discrimination against women, minorities, and transgender individuals who are often arrested due to the practice.
Despite remaining concerns of the bill passage causing dramatic increases of human trafficking, the bill was moved up last month by Senator Wiener in the hopes that the time was ready. The bill being available for signing so close after election day had also fueled speculation that since a main supporter of the bill, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, was now on his way out of office due to the recall, it would be easier to bring into law.
In a statement, Newsom noted the criticisms of the bill, including that it legalizes prostitution, and explained that it would cut back on discrimination and that he would have people monitoring the situation in case any negative effects do come up.
“To be clear, this bill does not legalize prostitution,” said Newsom after signing SB 357 into law. “It simply revokes provisions of the law that have led to disproportionate harassment of women and transgender adults. Black and Latino women are particularly affected.”
“I agree with the intent of the appeal, but we must be cautious about its implementation. We will track crime and prosecution trends for any possible unintended consequences and work to correct them.”
SB 357 signed into law despite strong opposition against it
Supporters cheered the news over the July 4th weekend, including SB 357 author Senator Wiener, who tweeted “Gov. Newsom just signed SB 357, our legislation to repeal the crime of loitering with intent to commit prostitution, also known as the “walking while trans” law. This discriminatory law targeted and profiled Black, Brown & trans women. It needed to go.”
“Thank you Governor for once again showing that California stands with the LGBTQ community and communities of color.”
Despite the support, opponents lamented the passage of the bill during the weekend, with many groups, such as sexual trafficking victim networks and law enforcement officials, now worried that sexual trafficking, and violence associated with it, will skyrocket in the coming years.
“For any cop who has seen the horrors of the sex trafficking industry, the passage of this bill is a huge slap in the face,” said former police officer and current Bay Area security consultant Frank Ma to the Globe on Tuesday. “Arresting for loitering with the intent of prostitution is a crucial tool to find out more about these rings and talk to those who are part of them or are victims of them. Without it, the situation will only get worse.”
“I really hope that Wiener knows the Pandora’s box he opened with this. Watch, in a few years he and other politicians will be complaining about how sex trafficking is so high. Whenever we see a needed arrest category get shot down, we always see a big rise in associated crimes. I hope he and Newsom are ok with having deaths and trafficking victims suffering on their hands because of this. I know I couldn’t sleep at night if I was behind it.”
SB 357 went into effect immediately after signing.