EDITORIAL| Legalize prostitution?

A Kirkland house was busted for prostitution (“Police raid suspected Kirkland brothel,” by Matt Phelps, Kirkland Reporter, May 22) and a massage parlor on Kirkland’s Market Street was raided last August. But you know, I’ve always thought prostitution should be legal. Isn’t it a victimless crime?

Legalization would clean up the industry, ending the black market. Otherwise, it seems like a political crime: people doing with their bodies what the government doesn’t like.

Everywhere sex for hire is legal, underage prostitution drops dramatically, disease is reduced, pimps and streetwalkers disappear, and police departments can focus on real crime.

Did you know that on 9-11, the FBI had officers in New Orleans tapping a brothel’s phones? Bad use of police time.

I lived in Leiden, Netherlands in 1994. Massage parlors were legal, yet Leiden wasn’t a sleazy town unsafe for kids. Far from it. Leiden (one hour south of Amsterdam by train) is a lovely canal-crossed University town.

Could Kirkland legalize prostitution? I don’t think so; the state or county would probably have to do it, or a conflict might arise between city and state law.

But Kirkland could “decriminalize” it where the Kirkland Police didn’t pursue it. But such an idea went down 60-40 percent at the polls in San Francisco’s Proposition K in 2008. Is Kirkland hipper than San Francisco on this?

I’d argue people have a right to do it under WA Constitution, Article I, Section 7—right to privacy. Note Justice Cardozo’s famous quote in Schloendorf v. Society of New York Hospital, (1914):

“Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his/her body.”

And a Washington court has held there’s a “right to be let alone.” Tacoma v. Vance, (1972).

I’d argue that prostitution laws also violate the right to contract (US Constitution, Art. I, Sect. 10—1789), right to private property (WA Constitution, Art. I, Sect. 3—1889), and the 14th Amendment’s (1868) Privileges & Immunities Clause right to pursue a livelihood, although no Court has yet ruled this way.

Yes, you may attract sex tourists, being the first jurisdiction to reform.

But the benefits of legalization/decriminalization are hard to deny, and in the rural counties of Nevada where prostitution has been legal for years, there hasn’t been a moral breakdown of society. Like legal alcohol, legal prostitution can make sense, and it doesn’t have to be sleazy.

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Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
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