By Guy Page
The proposed Burlington charter change to decriminalize prostitution will be reviewed by the House Government Operations Committee at 1 pm today.
The hearing may be seen live and recorded at the committee’s Zoom link.
As approved by City Meeting voters in March, the change would remove all language prohibiting prostitution, effectively decriminalizing the “oldest profession” in the Queen City. The Burlington decriminalization is seen as the first effort to decriminalize, or legalize-and-regulate, prostitution across the state.
If eventually approved by the Legislature, the bill will likely face close scrutiny by Gov. Phil Scott. His veto of another controversial proposed charter change – teenage voting in Brattleboro – was upheld by the Senate last week. And Scott is on the record opposing legal prostitution statewide. Legal prostitution isn’t “what Vermont needs at this point,” Gov. Phil Scott said at his weekly press conference March 3.
A coalition of Burlington lawmakers are pushing H630, whose lead sponsor is Selene Colburn (P-Burlington). H630 would “repeal the state’s prostitution laws that currently prohibit ‘indiscriminate sexual intercourse’ and consensual engagement in sex work for hire by adults (18 years old) while retaining strict prohibitions and felony criminal penalties for human trafficking of persons who are compelled through force, fraud, or coercion to engage in sex work.”
The bill to repeal state prostitution laws claims they “reflect the social mores of the early 1900s, criminalizing not only voluntary sex work but sexual activity outside marriage, and no longer reflect Vermont’s commitment to personal and bodily autonomy.”
Opponents call prostitution in any form “the choice of the choiceless” because it is inherently oppressive. It is also linked to drug abuse and an increased rate of illegal prostitution.
Those scheduled to testify today include:
- Michele Childs, Legislative Counsel, Office of Legislative Counsel
- Daniel Richardson, City Attorney, Burlington
- Maggie Kerrin, Vermont Chair, New Englanders Against Sexual Exploitation (NEASE)
- Christopher-Aaron Felker, Chairman, Burlington Republican Party – ZOOM
- Tucker Anderson, Legislative Counsel, Office of Legislative Counsel