The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

July 12, 2013

Moral turpitude is an affront to justice everywhere

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Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer has decided to jump back into the political arena, running for New York City controller. Apparently “The Steamroller” — or “Client #9” if you prefer — just can’t seem to avoid the limelight.

Spitzer, you should recall, resigned his position as governor on St. Patrick’s Day, 2008, after it came out that he was a regular client at a high-priced escort agency. He then did some TV, made some jokes at his own expense and tried to get his image fixed.

Well apparently him getting back into politics is “an affront to women everywhere” according to Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

Rosenthal says that soliciting prostitutes is demeaning and degrading to women and adds to the problem of human trafficking.

Except I’m not sure I buy it at all.

Just as prohibition led to more cheaper alcohol and the “War on Drugs” has led to more harmful drugs (and a staggering prison population boom), the fact that prostitution is illegal to begin with is probably one of the biggest reasons human trafficking exists.

Let me explain.

If prostitution were legal — regulated, mind you, but legal — it wouldn’t have to be carried out under the cloak of darkness. That openness would lead to safer conditions, and less likelihood that the type of conditions that leads to human trafficking could exist in the first place.

Mind you, prostitution isn’t illegal everywhere. It’s perfectly legal in Nevada. Regulated, mind you, but legal. That regulation means that sex workers must be treated humanely, are tested for sexually transmitted diseases regularly, are paid fairly, and pay taxes on their earnings.

The primary reason that prostitution is illegal has nothing to do with degradation of women or human trafficking. It has everything to do with some people’s moral compasses navigating other people’s lives.

The illegality of prostitution makes no more legal sense than bygone laws which prevented interracial marriage; Some people’s values ruling everyone’s lives.

Personally I think that cleaning toilets or working in the sewer is disgusting. But that’s no reason for those things to be illegal. In fact, they’re a necessary evil. I’m not sure prostitution is either necessary or evil, but a comparison could be made to sewer workers. It’s a dirty job. Some people are willing to do it. Others aren’t.

My basis for laws goes like this: If what I’m doing doesn’t hurt anyone else, there’s no reason for it to be illegal. If — hypothetically speaking, of course — I wanted to sell myself for sex or pay someone for sex, how does that hurt anyone else?

Personally, I think “an affront to women everywhere” should be that they’re told by law what they can and can’t do with their bodies. “An affront to women everywhere” should be the fact that prostitution is illegal to begin with.

That said, Spitzer did break the law. But he paid his price. He resigned his office. He did his apology tour. And he’ll never be president.

Continuing to punish someone for a “crime” for which they’ve already paid is an affront to justice. And punishing someone for a “crime” which shouldn’t even be illegal is equally appalling.

Scott Leffler would undoubtedly end up homeless if he tried to work as a prostitute. That’s why he writes columns instead. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Scott Leffler would undoubtedly end up homeless if he tried to work as a prostitute. That's why he writes columns instead. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.