A state senator in California has crafted a bill that would repeal a 26-year-old solicitation law that has been seen as unfairly punitive to Black and brown trans people.
According to CNN, Democratic state Senator Scott Wiener introduced SB-357 to the state legislature on Monday night. The bill would repeal the “loitering for purpose of prostitution” law, which in the decades since its introduction has been dubbed as the “walking while trans” law. While the bill was intended to curb prostitution, the guidelines were vague and basically left it up to cops to determine what exactly was a violation of the law.
I know this is probably unbelievable to our audience, but the subjective nature of its enforcement led to a disproportionate number of Black women being targeted by the law. While crafting the bill, Weiner found a study from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law that revealed Black people represented 56.1 percent of charges related to the law, despite representing only 8.9 percent of the general population in Los Angeles.
I, for one, am shocked. Shocked! Who ever would have thought racist policing in Los Angeles was a thing?
“This is one of those laws based exclusively on stereotypes and profiling,” Wiener told CNN. “You don’t have to actually do anything to commit this crime. This is based on how you look and how you’re acting.”
The bill already has support from multiple organizations that advocate on behalf of California’s LGBTQ community.
“All LGBTQ+ people deserve to exist without fear of harassment and violence, which is why we are proud to support SB 357,” Equality California Legislative Director Tami A. Martin said in a statement. Equality California is an organization that says it’s helped pass 150 state bills and resolutions aimed at protecting LGBTQ rights.
“I do know many trans women who have been arrested after just walking down the street or hanging out with their friends,” Bamby Salcedo, president of the Los Angeles-based Trans Latina Coalition, told CNN. “It’s like a double-edged sword. We experience both institutional and interpersonal violence.”
Should the bill pass, California would be following in the steps of New York, where state legislators passed a bill that repealed a similar law in the state last month. Wiener was thrilled when he saw the New York legislation pass and hopes that even those aren’t in the LGBTQ community understand why these laws are awful infringements upon personal freedoms.
“It’s just a horrible law, and it’s really un-American,” Wiener said. “If you are a woman and you are dressed in tight or revealing clothing and you’re in an area where sex work is known to happen, some police officer might decide you are loitering for the purposes of prostitution and arrest you.”