By Guy Page
A bill introduced into the Vermont House on Friday would repeal criminal prostitution laws and decriminalize prostitution.
H.372 follows the model of the Montpelier city repeal of its prostitution ordinance. It does not specifically legalize prostitution or establish a legal framework for the prostitution trade. But it does repeal existing laws, which “reflect the social mores of the early 1900s, criminalizing not only voluntary sex work but sexual activity outside marriage, and no longer reflect Vermont’s commitment to personal and bodily autonomy.”
The bill is sponsored by Reps. Taylor Small, Heather Surprenant, Alyssa Black, Tiffany Bluemle, Conor Casey, Brian Cina, Troy Headrick, Noah Hyman, Emilie Kornheiser, Saudia LaMont, Jubilee McGill, Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Kelly Pajala, and Barbara Rachelson. As a Montpelier City counselor, Casey voted for Montpelier’s prostitution decrim ordinance last summer.
The bill would not affect current law for human trafficking: H.372 “proposes to repeal the prostitution laws that currently prohibit “indiscriminate sexual intercourse” and consensual engagement in sex work for hire by adults while retaining strict prohibitions and felony criminal penalties for human trafficking of persons who are compelled through force, fraud, or coercion to engage in sex work.”
Critics of decriminalization say it empowers human traffickers — often males who physically abuse women prostitutes and control their housing and illegal drug supply — because it makes it harder to induce prostitutes to provide evidence against their traffickers.
Disorderly conduct decrim bill — most of the sponsors of H.372 also co-sponsored H.377, to decriminalize disorderly conduct. The bill simply strikes out current statute that allows punishment of up to two months in jail or a $500 fine for someone who “engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior; makes unreasonable noise; in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language; without lawful authority, disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons; or obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic.”
Hallucinogenic mushroom decrim bill — Another House bill would decriminalize psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in certain mushrooms. According to a DEA website, its street name is Magic Mushrooms, Shrooms, or just Mushrooms.
H.371 would make finding regarding the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, to remove criminal penalties for possession of psilocybin, and to establish the Psychedelic Therapy Advisory Working Group to examine the use of psychedelics to improve physical and mental health and to make recommendations regarding the establishment of a State program similar to Connecticut, Colorado, or Oregon to permit health care providers to administer psychedelics in a therapeutic setting.
All three bills were referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.