By Guy Page
Legal prostitution isn’t “what Vermont needs at this point,” Gov. Phil Scott said at his weekly press conference yesterday.
Burlington voters Tuesday approved a charter change repealing anti-prostitution language. The charter change will go before the Legislature for approval this year or next. Meanwhile, a coalition of Burlington lawmakers are pushing H630, whose lead sponsor is Selene Colburn (P-Burlington). H630 would “repeal the 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 was introduced on Jan. 14 and assigned to House Judiciary, where Colburn is an influential member. Other sponsors are Emilie Kornheiser of Brattleboro, Tiffany Bluemle of Burlington, Brian Cina of Burlington, Katherine Donnally of Hyde Park, John Killacky of South Burlington, Emma Mulvaney-Stanak of Burlington, William Notte of Rutland, Barbara Rachelson of Burlington, Taylor Small of Winooski, Heather Surprenant of Barnard, Tanya Vyhovsky of Essex, and Rebecca White of Hartford.
The sponsors lean heavily towards the Progressive party, although a few (including White, Notte, and Killacky) are Democrats. There are no Republicans.
Vermont Daily Chronicle asked Scott during the press conference: “Now that Burlington has passed its prostitution repeal, it’s likely that a state bill will be getting a look this session, maybe next. What’s your view on either decriminalizing or regulating prostitution?” The governor responded: “I don’t think that’s what Vermont needs at this point,” Scott said succinctly.
The bill claims that existing laws “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.
Some supporters of legal prostitution do not appear concerned about Scott’s statement. After Jane Lindholm of VPR tweeted our question and Scott’s response – “Guy Page asks about Scott’s reaction to Burlington decriminalizing prostitution and if he’d support statewide decriminalization. “I don’t think that’s what Vermont needs at this point,” is all Scott says on that.” – Addison County High Bailiff David Silberman tweeted, “Cool that’s the same answer he gave on cannabis legalization in 2016 so I guess he’ll sign a sex work decrim bill in 7 months.”