Read the full article by Daniel Marans and Jenavieve Hatch at HuffingtonPost.com

Three Democratic House candidates are taking a stand against a law opposed by sex workers.

Two years into Donald Trump’s presidency, most Democrats in Congress are embracing stances on health care, legal marijuana and the minimum wage that would have been considered far outside the mainstream just two years ago. But when it comes to the rights of some of the most vulnerable members of society — voluntary sex workers — elected Democrats still overwhelmingly side with the religious right and consistently fail to consult the people most affected by their policies.

 

“At the end of the day, Democrats still want to find an issue where they can be bipartisan,” said Sean McElwee, a progressive activist and co-founder of the think tank Data for Progress. “And fucking over sex workers is a way they can be bipartisan.”

 

Now, however, a small but growing group of progressive congressional candidates are heeding the outrage of their constituents and have turned against laws that make it harder for sex workers to safely practice. At least three Democrats running in competitive House primaries are currently campaigning on their opposition to SESTA/FOSTA, legislation that passed in April and holds websites criminally liable for any potential sex trafficking that occurred on their pages.

 

“SESTA/FOSTA has rolled back internet freedoms and inflicted deep damage on already-marginalized communities, putting lives at risk while setting the fight against trafficking back decades,” Suraj Patel, who’s running in New York’s 12th Congressional District, wrote in an op-ed denouncing the law.

 

Patel is challenging Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D), a co-sponsor of FOSTA (the House iteration of the bill) and has been among the most outspoken critics of the bill.

 

Amy Vilela, a Democrat running in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, learned about the consequences of the legislation from discussions with district voters, some of whom are involved in the industry legally and illegally. (Sex work is legal in parts of that district.)

 

Vilela supports national decriminalization of sex work on the grounds that it would make the industry safer. “Who better able to help law enforcement zero in on sex trafficking than people who are sex workers and in the industry?” Vilela asked. “If we had regulation, unionization of sex workers and if we fostered a relationship between folks in the industry and law enforcement, it would probably produce much better results.”

 

There’s a bright red line in the feminist movement,” activist and former sex worker Lola Davina told HuffPost. On one side, she said, there are feminists who acknowledge sex work as actual work, and support sex workers’ rights. The other side includes women horrified by the idea of receiving money in exchange for sex, who believe that to engage in sex work is to uphold patriarchy and rape culture.

 

UPDATE: June 27 ― Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the primary election in New York’s 14th Congressional District on June 26, knocking Rep. Joseph Crowley, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, out of the race. Suraj Patel, who ran in New York’s 12th, lost his primary race to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D).