Local Propwatch SAN FRANCISCO: Measure K – (Sorta) Legalizes Prostitution
NOTE MEASURE K HAS FAILED: 42.4% YES 57.5% NO – NO wins
Measure K asks San Francisco voters to pass a city ordinance directing law enforcement to no longer enforce California’s prostitution laws. Every rational person involved in the measure agrees that over-policing of the world’s oldest profession is a waste of time and money. What people don’t agree on is whether Measure K is the right solution. One of the opposition’s main argument is that Measure K legalizes prostitution without passing any regulations.
We will not engage in the ideological “regulation versus no regulation of sex-workers” debate because we don’t know enough about it, but we can explain why regulating prostitution under Measure K is not possible.
Measure K does not “legalize” prostitution, it is only an order to not enforce state law. There’s not a whole lot the state can do to San Francisco if all they’re doing is “non-enforcement” of state law. Local officials have wide discretion to enforce or not enforce certain laws that may be at odds with local interests (like drinking alcohol in public in wine country or growing weed in Humboldt).
But if San Francisco tries to pass a regulatory scheme that would make prostitutes register with the city, submit to STD testing, etc. then San Francisco is trying to regulate an illegal act. The state would challenge the law in court and would almost certainly win.
There’s also the opposition’s weird argument about human trafficking. The No On K people are trying to say that passage of Measure K would make it more difficult for police to catch human trafficking victims. That is a weak argument. Ask any big city cop you know where “human trafficking” is on their list of enforcement priorities. Your answer will be “it’s not on the list.” Human trafficking is a serious problem, but rejecting Measure K won’t improve it and passing Measure K won’t make it any worse.
Again, we are not taking a position on Measure K because we don’t know enough and have not adequately researched the sex-worker culture of San Francisco.
However, we did find it kind of funny that the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is recommending a “No” vote, you’d think it would be good for business. We suspect that city’s convention bureau is really hoping that Measure K passes.