OpEd: The Next Gay Civil Rights Battle is for Sex Workers

Since the Supreme Court ruled affirmatively for gay marriage on June 26, there has been a new dawn for LGBT America. Well, outside of a little hamlet in Kentucky, anyway.

 But here is the wake up call. Legally, you can now get married to your partner in a church on Sunday and get fired from your job at work on Monday.

All across America, from the U.S. Congress to small communities, LGBT citizens still have too few legal rights in the workplace. In most places, unless you are protected by a contract or work for a progressive government, you can be fired from your job for being gay.

But at least you won't be arrested.

The mainstream LGBT organizations, from the newly renamed Task Force, to the HRC, are presently galvanizing their forces to challenge these inequities in the workplace. For undertaking this politically correct step, they will be celebrated by our community’s leaders.

They should be applauded for their efforts, but they won’t need our help. Sex workers and escorts do. They represent the veiled part of a civil rights issue no one wants to talk about.

Well, I do.

It doesn't matter that prostitution is the world's oldest profession; it's your best-kept secret.

Here's the thing. Last week, after announcing that I founded the National Coalition of Rent Boys, I got a couple of highly critical letters suggesting that I could find a 'more noble calling.'

I disagree. Here’s why.

Last year, the state liquor authorities raided the Boardwalk Bar in Fort Lauderdale and threatened to shut it down. Amongst the accusations charging the nightclub with legal improprieties was that they tolerated and ‘countenanced’ prostitution, by allowing young men to offer themselves out for sex.

What if they did? What were the owners of the bar supposed to do- put a recorder on each dancer, tape their conversations, and listen in to every word they had with a customer? Come on, that’s ridiculous. Besides, we have the National Security Agency for that.

You tell me, why is it illegal for two adult grown men to sit at a bar, have a drink, and then agree to retreat to one’s home and exchange sex for money? Whether it is a pizza, a penis, or pot, you as a grown adult ought to be able to decide what you want in your mouth.

The truth is that the battle to decriminalize sex workers is not about prostitution. It’s what we as a gay community have been fighting for over the decades. It's about us having the right to exercise free choice. An essential element of exercising free will means that no one but you should have control over the affairs of your body.

Let Homeland Security protect our borders. I will protect my bedroom. Let our government police the environment, highways and our climate. I will worry about prostitutes.

I think at the age of 65 I can make these choices, and I think by the age of 21, so should you have that right. Besides, it is kind of remarkable that the business of pornography permits any adult to lawfully get paid for having sex on camera while you can go to jail for paying for having sex in your own bedroom.

My decision to text a same-sex rent boy to come to my home is no different an option than the one made every night in America by a straight guy engaging a female hooker in a local bar. If those choices lead to compensated and intimate sexual encounters, that's their business and no one else's.

This is a civil rights matter because the continued criminalization of sex workers means the government is infringing upon your freedom. Adults should not go to jail for engaging in acts that constitute nothing more than exercising dominion and control over the use of their own body. That's morally wrong and legally unconscionable.

The rent boy raid in New York did more than shut down a web site where young adult men sold their time. It terrorized them, inhibiting their ability to market themselves as legal escorts. The arrests criminalize their conduct, and have a residual chilling effect on their ability to continue with that line of work.

The raid on the Rent Boy enterprise also unjustifiably presumes every client's encounter with an escort is inevitably sexual. Not so. Very often, in rent boy encounters, clients purchase no more than a few hours of companionship, a dinner or a date. It’s not prostitution.

When the Supreme Court ruled a decade ago that sodomy statutes were unconstitutional, they ruled also that certain private and intimate behaviors were outside the scope of government control. The judges concurred that all our lives have a zone of privacy where government cannot and must not go. Declaring prostitution statutes unconstitutional is the next logical step.

In the next few years, you can expect the Human Rights Campaign to line up a parade of politicians to support your right to be openly gay and not get fired.

In the meantime, I am going to do what I can to put rent boys back into action. Proudly. They have a right not to be reduced to second-class citizens. Neither they nor their clients belong in jail. It may not be the most mainstream calling, but is indeed a cause worth fighting for. Freedom always is.

Join the National Coalition of Rent Boys & Allies today. We need your help. (www.ncorb.com)

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