Kamala Harris gains momentum among Democrats with proposal to legalize prostitution
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Decriminalizing prostitution — an idea gaining momentum among some Democrats, including at least one 2020 presidential contender — may one day be traced back to the hookers plying their trade under the elevated train along New York City’s Roosevelt Avenue.
That open-air market of prostitutes and johns in Queens, undeterred by the constant threat of arrest and incarceration, has been cited by New York state lawmakers mulling whether it’s time to wave the white flag in the war on the world’s oldest profession.
The decriminalization debate among Democrats spilled into the 2020 presidential race last month when Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California said she was supportive of the idea — although the legalization crowd complained that she was still too timid.
It was less than a decade ago that the Democratic Party embraced same-sex marriage and just three years ago that it formally adopted a platform plank to legalize marijuana. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona, chairman emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said decriminalizing sex work is on “that same trajectory.”
“At some point, it will be looked at in a different light,” Mr. Grijalva said.
For now, Ms. Harris appears to be leading the 2020 pack.
She told The Root last week that she would back decriminalization as long as safeguards remain in place to protect sex workers against exploitation by human traffickers and pimps.
“But when you are talking about consenting adults, I think that you know, yes, we should really consider that we can’t criminalize consensual behavior as long as no one is being harmed,” she said.
It’s a major shift from 2008 when, as San Francisco district attorney, she called the idea ridiculous.
Legalization activists say the 2020 hopeful’s new stance appears to embrace the Nordic model adopted in parts of Europe, which discourages prostitution but targets those buying sex rather than those selling it. The activists asked for a meeting with Ms. Harris to urge h