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Libertarian Party Adopts New Sex Work Plank, Becomes Only Notable U.S. Party to Endorse Prostitution Decriminalization

The LP's move comes the same week the Green Party explicitly rejected a platform that protects sex worker rights.

Gail Orenstein/ZUMAPRESS/NewscomGail Orenstein/ZUMAPRESS/NewscomThe Libertarian Party officially "supports the decriminalization of prostitution," according to a new plank in the party's political platform. This makes the L.P. the only notable U.S. political party to stand unequivocally for sex-worker rights and in opposition to cops caging people for consensual sex.

"We assert the right of consenting adults to provide sexual services to clients for compensation, and the right of clients to purchase sexual services from consenting sex workers," reads the new language, adopted by vote today at the Libertarian National Convention in New Orleans. The convention brings together Libertarian Party members for forums, speeches, and debates, while delegates vote on proposed amendments to the party's platform and bylaws and who will be the national leaders.

After some debate Monday morning, delegates adopted the decriminalization amendment as Plank 2.8 of the party's platform. The previous platform made no mention of sex work or prostitution. The language of the new amendment was drafted by sex workers, and L.P. delegates rejected a similar amendment in order to approve the sex-worker-penned version.

The L.P.'s move comes the same week America's other most popular third party, the Greens, explicitly rejected a platform that protects sex worker rights.

"In a not surprising, yet still disappointing, move," the Green Party "failed to pass a platform resolution calling for the decriminalization of sex work," the Sex Workers Outreach Project noted on Twitter this morning. "Instead they retain their current platform which recommends 'Nordic' model criminalization and conflates trafficking with [sex work]."

The "Nordic model" puts more emphasis on prosecuting sex buyers than sex sellers and lets some sex workers avoid arrest as long as they do so under very specific circumstances.

In voting that ended July 1, Green Party delegates rejected a proposed platform amendment that would add the decriminalization to the party's official platform. The measure was co-sponsored by the Green Parties of Alabama, Colorado, North Carolina, and Utah and the Lavender Greens and Youth Greens. "It is the opinion of the authors of this document that the party's current stance on sex work...is morally indefensible, ideologically incoherent, and politically damaging," they suggested. The amendment failed.

The Democratic platform makes no mention of prostitution or sex work, though it does contain at least a dozen references to sexual orientation. The Republican platform also avoids commentary on prostitution, though it does claim that "Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions."

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  • sharmota4zeb||

    I am glad that, when it comes to prostitution, American Libertarians take the same position as the Israeli religious right.

  • Starchild||

    I believe you've misread the article you linked, which is a bit confusingly written.

    The article reports that ultra-orthodox parties in Israel are among those supporting a bill that would treat prostitution as a *crime* punishable by a 1-year jail sentence.

    Hundreds of delegates at the Libertarian Party convention in the United States, in contrast, just voted to add a plank to their platform supporting the *decriminalization* of prostitution.

    As a sex worker and libertarian activist, I wrote the draft language of that plank.

  • Eddy||

    "We assert the right of consenting adults to provide sexual services to clients for compensation, and the right of clients to purchase sexual services from consenting sex workers,"

    There's one adult whose consent they forgot - the wronged spouse of the "client."

    As I've said before, there are practical arguments for decriminalization, and I've been persuaded by these arguments. However, this is based on utilitarian calculation, not on a priori principles which assume that all relevant adults have consented, which is often not the case.

  • Citizen X||

    You're assuming anybody who wants to purchase sex must be married? Poor Mrs. Eddy.

  • Eddy||

    No, the platform plank applies to all clients, including married persons.

    Such a broad vstatement of "consenting adult" rights is flawed because it leaves out nonconsenting spouses, where that's applicable.

    They're the ones who made an argument broad enough to defend the intrinsic rights of married "clients" to buy sex.

  • Citizen X||

    That's between the john and his (or her) spouse, and government should have nothing to do with it. Plenty of things are legal and should remain so, even if only an asshole would do them.

  • John C. Randolph||

    The cheater has the right to fuck Tony for money if they both agree, but the tort here is the fraud against the spouse. The spouse should be able to sue Tony's customer for damages, but in such a case, Tony is not culpable for what his customers do or do not tell anyone else.

  • gphx||

    I keep using the same argument on my wife when she tries to go vote.
    On a more serious note, what's wrong with you?

  • Just Say'n||

    "not on a priori principles which assume that all relevant adults have consented"

    Not all adults consent when an affair occurs, but we do not criminalize that concept. Wouldn't the "priori principle" be "free will"? It was your Church that bestowed the West with the notion of "free will". Perhaps your criticism should be leveled against Robert Bellarmine

  • Eddy||

    Strictly speaking, some states have laws making adultery a crime. They're not enforced, but it allows people in divorce proceedings to take the Fifth about their affairs.

    I've said I accept utilitarian arguments against punishing hookers and cheaters as criminals.

    I'm a bit vague on where Robert Bellarmine comes into the picture re sex-worker rights advocacy.

  • Just Say'n||

    Perhaps it's an unfair argument that I made. I reject utilitarian arguments, generally speaking, but I think Bellarmine's argument about the importance of "free will" in the maintenance of government to be a compelling argument in favor of things that admittedly Bellarmine would not accept.

    I will not judge your response, but do you believe that adultery laws should be enforced? To an extent they are enforced in civil procedures through divorce proceedings, but do you think there should be criminal punishment?

  • Eddy||

    I love quoting myself!

    "I've said I accept utilitarian arguments against punishing hookers and cheaters as criminals."

  • Just Say'n||

    I saw that, but I was asking under the basis of "free will". Do you reject the concept?

  • Eddy||

    We have to believe in free will, we have no choice.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Generally speaking, if someone starts out of the gate saying anything about "practical", "utilitarian", or "pragmatic", there's an implicit contrary stance that's closer to their moral/ethical stance that they have admitted is functionally difficult.

    For example, as a practical matter I'm against the death penalty (it's more expensive then life-in-prison and we get it wrong too often). As a moral matter, I'm fine with the death penalty in some cases (some criminals have committed crimes so heinous that there is no point to keeping them alive). The fact that one is my operative policy choice (anti-death penalty) doesn't mean I don't still have my moral preferences.

    So I'll ask Just Say'n's question again, rephrased: If you put aside your utilitarian concerns with enforcement, do you think that adultery laws should be enforced? With or without criminal punishment?

  • Eddy||

    "If you put aside your utilitarian concerns with enforcement, do you think that adultery laws should be enforced?"

    What on earth does that even mean?

    What policy would I support in an alternative universe where there's no potential for government corruption and blackmail, etc., in enforcing these laws?

    A universe that benevolent probably wouldn't have prostitution and adultery in the first place.

  • Eddy||

    If people who find statism impractical are not pure enough to be allies, then libertarianism is going to remain a fairly limited movement.

    I also observe that Reason has plenty of articles about the practical need for more liberty.

    I know, I know, Reason are a bunch of sellouts, but they're in the business of outreach.

  • EscherEnigma||

    What on earth does that even mean?


    To use my personal example, if we had a magically just justice system that never made mistakes and was calibrated to my precise idea of justice, I would be fine with the death penalty.

    So whatever your utilitarian objections are to adultery laws, imagine a world where those concerns are satisfied, and then think about what laws/policies you would support in that world.

    This really isn't a hard exercise.

  • Eddy||

    In the world you stipulate, I'd just have a law requiring everyone to be good. And in such a universe, everyone would voluntarily follow that law because a universe benevolent enough to accommodate an uncorrupt and pure government would be a universe where people simply don't misbehave.

  • Eddy||

    If it happened that my universe contained some bad people, it would only be a matter of time before the bad people wormed their way into government and we'd be back where we started.

  • EscherEnigma||

    ... seriously? Your utilitarian concern with adultery laws is that there are "bad people", and "bad people" have to be 100% eliminated before your concerns are satisfied?

    Dude, that's not a utilitarian concern with adultery laws, that's a utilitarian concern with people.

  • Eddy||

    OK, then, call it what you please, based on the world's historical experience with such laws I don't trust the government when it comes to criminal prosecution of adultery and prosecution.

    What I don't agree with is the idea of a fundamental right to adultery and prostitution, especially when it violates the marital bond.

    And there are civil remedies in many states, at least for adultery. These causes of action are called "heartbalm actions" by condescending people who think it's all about hurt feelings, not defending the fabric of civilization.

  • Starchild||

    People in a marital bond don't always have the same understanding of what that "contract" entails. How would you address that issue?

    Also, if Person A breaks a contract with Person B by contracting with Person C in a manner which violates their contract with Person B, why should Person C, who did not break any contract to which they agreed, be criminalized for this?

    Finally, can you explain exactly how you think civilization would break down if governments didn't criminalize adultery and prostitution? This never seems to be spelled out. How would your life personally, or the lives of people you know, change for the worse?

  • Starchild||

    I used the word "contract" in quotes with regard to marital bonds in my previous message, because vows aren't always exchanged as part of marriage, let alone there always being a written agreement. When there is an actual verbal or written agreement, the wording is often quite vague and subject to interpretation.

  • perlchpr||

    Dude, that's not a utilitarian concern with adultery laws, that's a utilitarian concern with people.

    Well, to be fair, people do kind of suck.

  • gphx||

    Did your spouse give you permission to accept utilitarian arguments against punishing hookers and cheaters as criminals?

  • Jim Logajan||

    What does libertarianism say the role of the State is in marriage? If the state should have no role in marriage because it should have no role in freedom of association, then why is consent of some other person involved? All I can think that may be operative is whatever is in a marriage contract - and such violations are a civil matter.

  • Qsl||

    For sake of argument-

    Should the state be required to arbitrate any and all types of contracts? Suppose you and 100 of your closest friends want to get married to each other, should the state be required to oversee divorce proceedings, power of attorney, division of property, and/or child custody?

    While not strictly for state recognition of marriage, there is something to be said about the state deciding what issues it is willing (and able) to arbitrate, which makes for a de facto state sanctioned.

    It is easy to say the state shouldn't be involved in marriage until all parties are crying foul and demanding the state clean up their mess.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "However, this is based on utilitarian calculation, not on a priori principles which assume that all relevant adults have consented, which is often not the case."

    Agreed. Sex work is pretty disgusting and massively exploitative everywhere I have seen it. I suggest everyone take a trip to Manila or Pattaya if they want to look at what sex work looks like. Shit is not pretty.

    That being said, I am not sure we can do much about it. I do not want red light districts near where I live though, I can say that :) Go to Vegas.

  • Iheartskeet||

    So, you haven't been to Canada ? Or the Netherlands ? Or London ?

    Things are shitty in Manila and Pattaya because...things are shitty in Manila and Pattaya.

    Honestly, sex work is decriminalized/legal a hell of a lot more places than even marijuana. its not the end of the goddamn world, and am surprised so many prudes on this topic vs legalizing drugs.

    As for me: Good work LP ! I mean, you aren't going to get anyone elected, but breaching the taboo on this topic perhaps can generate some discussion and change sown the road.

  • gphx||

    Legal sex work is a lot prettier and safer than illegal sex work. And that doesn't even include getting screwed and robbed by cops.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Good.
    Expanding liberty is always better than not expanding liberty.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Seriously man, visit Pattaya or Manila and tell me sex work is a net good. If that is what freedom looks like...

    In any event there is one thing to say it should be legal because it does more harm to prosecute people for this and another to think there is something good about prostitution being legal. The institution is exploitative by nature and pretty evil.

  • Iheartskeet||

    As I indicate above, you need to get out more.

    Also, it IS a net good. Rhode Island briefly, accidentally, legalized indoor prostitution a while back. IIRC some STDs, rape, and sexual violence, against sex workers as well as the broader population, declined sharply. I think some STDs dropped >40%.

    Like drugs, people are gonna do what the wanna do, generally speaking. There isn't any good argument for keeping sex work illegal.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "Like drugs, people are gonna do what the wanna do, generally speaking. There isn't any good argument for keeping sex work illegal."

    I agree, but I do not think there is any reason to pretend it is "good." Sex work sucks by and large for the large majority of people that participate in it.

    I have only been around Asia for the most part so I can not speak for how it is in the West, but I have talked to the girls that do this work at their bars and they almost invariably are all from poor places with some relative who is sick or brother or sister who needs cash for school. That really sucks they need to sell themselves for cash, but it is what it is, the world sucks. No reason to stick them behind bars too and it is better to try and at least protect them a little from the shit that comes from doing the work illegally.

  • Hugh Akston||

    The Republican platform also avoids commentary on prostitution, though it does claim that "Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions."

    So does the platform include references to the reams of evidence necessary to support such a claim, or is it just a stock photo of a hand pointing at the Bible?

  • Just Say'n||

    The platform is probably as logically sound as the woke references to "sex" and "gender" being totally different except entirely the same when it suits our preferred policy found in the Democratic platform

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Genesis 38: 26

    Judah recognized; and he said, "She is right; it is from me, inasmuch as I did not give her to Shelah, my son," and he was not intimate with her anymore.

    Prostitution is not about the gold as much as the receipts. A single lady has the right to a sex life that involves informed consent and financial support from guys if that's the lifestyle she and her partners choose.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    This makes the L.P. the only notable U.S. political party to stand unequivocally for sex-worker rights and in opposition to cops caging people for consensual sex.

    So there's an even smaller/fringe party that also stands for sex-workers' rights?

    Why isn't reason giving this group more coverage?

  • Eddy||

    Because the phone booth in which they meet has an unlisted number?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    What's a phone booth? They still have those?

  • Longtobefree||

    In museums.

  • Just Say'n||

    Who would have thought that the political party which is predominately male would be the first to endorse sex work? Besides everyone who has ever met a man before, of course

  • Hugh Akston||

    Being an essentialist really takes all the guess work and time-consuming thought out of understanding people, doesn't it?

  • Just Say'n||

    Yeah....good one?

  • Citizen X||

    He's not being an essentialist, he's being a comedian from like 1950.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Back to the Borscht Belt with him.

  • Just Say'n||

    You don't have to be so butt hurt just because your joke was bad

  • Citizen X||

    "Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions."

    BUCS hardest hit (but it's okay, he's into that).

  • Just Say'n||

    Why do you think BUCS pushed for the addition of this plank in the platform?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    THE PARTY OF INCELS

  • RWW||

    Is there another act that is completely legal between consenting adults that becomes illegal when money changes hands?

  • Citizen X||

    Organ donation, sort of?

  • Eddy||

    A rich person anonymously supporting a political candidate?

  • Echo Chamber||

    Any profession that the state requires the provider to have a certification (if the provider is not certified)?

  • Dan S.||

    Refraining from reporting your past indiscretions to the police or the press?

  • EscherEnigma||

    With the "depending on jurisdiction" caveat on all of these...
    Organ donation.
    Blood donation.
    Surrogacy.
    Voting.
    Poker night.
    Sports betting.
    Certain kinds of political advertising/endorsements.
    Silence (see: blackmail)

  • Necron 99||

    My [il]liberal sister-in-law used to call me a Republican that wants to smoke pot. Since the TX Republican convention adopted a legalize pot plank, I guess now I'm just a Republican that wants hookers and blow.

  • Eddy||

    In other words, a Republican?

    Thank you, don't forget to tip your waitresses waitresses and waiters wait staff of any and all genders.

  • Eddy||

    daggone it

  • BLPoG||

    The real question is how soon Bill Weld claims to be a Libertarian while rejecting this plank.

  • Just Say'n||

    This is not the position that I'd be worried about Weld selling out on.

  • Echo Chamber||

    I can't believe that name still gets mentioned. Leave it in the dustbin of history

  • Eddy||

    Or just say He Who Shall Not Be Named, like the bad guy in Harry Potter.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Bill Weld hates whores. He will advocate every Libertarian voting for Hillary again.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Some political parties are obsessed with positioning themselves so as to maximize their appeal to voters. If the strategy of the Libertarian Party is to squeeze all the support they can out of the party and embrace it's true purpose--hitting the American voters over the head with things they don't like until they finally start liking them--then I think the LP is doing a great job here.

    I suppose the LP should embrace the tweekers, meth heads, whatever. They've already tried chasing pro-lifers out of the party. If that didn't drain them of enough support, then just randomly embracing embarrassing issues until all the easily embarrassed swing voters have fled is the next logical step. Actually, now that you can't really support the party without also supporting prostitution, I say they go for the full monty . . .

    No love for the dog-fuckers? Just embrace those that want it on the receiving end, you know, 'cause that's what the NAP is all about. I can't believe they're jumping on board with prostitutes and just leaving the dog fuckers out in the dog house. Give it a while, and Reason will catch up. Just like how prostitutes are actually sex workers, eventually, they'll have to hire someone to tell us that dog fuckers are actually "animal lovers", amirite?

  • Echo Chamber||

    "No love for the dog-fuckers?"
    Well, a whale fucker did come in 3rd at the convention. There's plenty of love to go around

  • creech||

    Am I incorrect that the LP platform welcomes the world's population to move here, with only one string attached - you can't be violent? If you are advocating open borders for a welfare state, at least put in there a caveat that non-citizens will not be eligible for welfare.

  • Longtobefree||

    There should be a plank explaining why welfare will be ended, no?

  • JoeBlow123||

    The writers and editors here are a bunch of perpetually hipster aspys who think they are smarter than everyone and need to preach to others the one true faith, their version of libertarianism. There is no rationality in faith so they reject your pleas for rationalism!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Uh oh. Butt sex, Mesicans, weed, and whores.

    We are the party of freedom and Democrat agents.

  • IceTrey||

    The LP should have one plank that's like "We stand for the complete prohibition of the initiatory use of force." That pretty much covers everything.

  • Longtobefree||

    Force or fraud?

  • Veronica Tash||

    Well, your article starts from a lie.

    The Socialist Party USA, considered by tge FEC to be the sole successor to the SPA, has had for at least a decade:

    We call for the decriminalization of prostitution and demand that sex workers, just like all workers, are guaranteed a full range of health, social, and legal services; and working conditions free from harassment, violence, and exploitation.

  • Eman||

    Well this will certainly cheer up imprisoned prostitutes!

  • jcbinok||

    Fine.

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