SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a new state law that will stop police from arresting people for loitering for prostitution, an issue that divided sex workers and advocates during a rare nine-month delay since state lawmakers passed the bill last year.
“To be clear, this bill does not legalize prostitution,” Newsom said in a signing message. “It simply revokes provisions of the law that have led to disproportionate harassment of women” and transgender adults, he said, nothing that Black and Latino women are particularly affected.
The bill will bar police in California from arresting anyone for loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution. Sen. Scott Wiener and other supporters said such arrest decisions often rely on an officer’s perception.
While Newsom said he agreed with the intent of the repeal, “we must be cautious about its implementation.” He said his administration will track crime and prosecution trends “for any possible unintended consequences” and, if so, work to correct them.
“For far too long, California law has been used to profile, harass and arrest transgender and gender-nonconforming people simply for existing in public spaces,” Tony Hoang, executive director of the LGTBQ rights group Equality California, said in praising the repeal.
The measure also will allow those who were previously convicted or are serving sentences to ask a court to dismiss and seal the record of the conviction.
Similar legislation became law in New York last year in what Wiener said is part of a broader effort to end violence toward and discrimination against sex workers.
“Everyone — no matter their race, gender or how they make a living — deserves to feel safe on our streets,” Wiener said in a statement thanking Newsom.
Wiener, Newsom’s fellow Democrat, used a parliamentary maneuver to delay Newsom’s consideration for months after the bill passed the Legislature in September. He hoped the pause would give proponents time to build more support, including by signing an online petition.
Opponents like the California Family Council countered with their own online petition as part of a monthslong tug-of-war.
The American Civil Liberties Union of California sought the legislation along with several groups backing transgender se…
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