Legislators in New York may make that state the first to ban using condoms as evidence of prostitution, while there’s no hope for a similar bill in California.
Advocates are “optimistic” that New York state senators will pass the proposal, according to the Associated Press, which suggested a vote could come soon. The Assembly already passed the bill.
But in California, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is conceding Assembly Bill 336, which he introduced more than a year ago, won’t make it. The last movement on AB 336 was in June, when Ammiano’s request to cancel a committee hearing on the bill, which had already been gutted, was granted.
“We found out late that, because of a technicality, it would require a two-thirds vote,” Ammiano said in a statement to the Bay Area Reporter Friday (May 2). “Having to get 54 votes, it wasn’t going to happen. Even though there’s a clear public health issue, there was opposition from groups like the [District Attorney's] Association. Too many legislators are going to be nervous about voting for something involving sex workers in opposition to law enforcement. It’s not actually dead, but will probably not move forward. We’re still supporting any chances to broaden condom use. … We know they can save lives.”
Ammiano referred to AB 640, by Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Los Angeles), which would require that condoms be used while making porn, and AB 966, by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), which would make condoms available in state prisons.
Sex worker advocates, public health officials, and others have expressed concerns that using condoms as evidence of prostitution discourages people from carrying them, thereby putting them at greater risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Citing public health and other concerns, and following the B.A.R.’s coverage of the issue, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr and Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in 2012 that using condoms as evidence of prostitution should be permanently banned.
District Attorney George Gascón agreed to the ban last year, after taking months to examine the issue. Local prosecutors had only rarely used condoms as evidence, according to Alex Bastian, Gascón’s spokesman.
The DA’s Association laid out its opposition to the original version of AB 336 in a letter that said, in part, “We understand the public health concern generated by prostitutes engaging in unprotected sex,” but “we must oppose this measure because it is more appropriate for courts and court officers to determine the admissibility of evidence.”
After the bill was amended to make it more complicated to use condoms as evidence, rather than have an outright ban, the association submitted another letter. Among other complaints, the second letter said that Ammiano’s proposal “would create a burdensome process” for prosecutors.