WASHINGTON, D.C.—Yesterday was a big day for the Woodhull Freedom Foundation and its co-plaintiffs/appellants in their fight to have the recently passed Fighting Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) declared unconstitutional: Four organizational groups filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, all challenging Judge Richard J. Leon’s ruling that none of the Woodhull plaintiffs have legal standing to challenge the law.
The most voluminous amicus, weighing in at 83 pages (including witness affidavits), is the work of several “sexual freedom” groups including Freedom Network USA, Sex Workers Project, New York Transgender Advocacy Group, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, Free Speech Coalition (whose president, attorney Jeffrey Douglas, supplied an affidavit), St. James Infirmary and several others. In explaining why these groups filed in support of Woodhull, the brief states, “Amici have a long history in the struggle to ensure that all persons who have been discriminated against, criminalized, or marginalized due to their sexual orientation, sexual or gender identity or expression, or behavior are protected. Many amici also work to support and provide services to people who are trafficked and abused. … Amici curiae are eleven rights-based organizations or coalitions advocating for sex workers, survivors of trafficking, the prevention of child sexual abuse, and the promotion of sexual freedom and health for adults. FOSTA has had significant, harmful outcomes for the clients, communities and members of amici organizations, including serious economic consequences and impacts on well-being, health, and safety.”
The “Freedom Network” amicus primary argument is that the “Conflation of Human Trafficking and Sex Work Leads to Misguided Policy,” and it then proceeds to define the distinct terms “trafficking in persons,” “sex work” and “prostitution,” all of which FOSTA conflates due to the vagueness of the law’s wording. The amicus notes that “Sex work denotes voluntary erotic labor of adults,” and that “The majority of sex work is legal.” Such work includes exotic dancing/stripping, dominatrix/fetish work, adult film performance, webcamming, phone sex and, at least in some counties in Nevada, prostitution. It also notes that, “While forced prostitution, i.e. ‘sex trafficking,’ certainly does exist, the majority of trafficking occurs in legal labor sectors, such as restaurant work, farm labor, and nail salons.” However, FOSTA targets several of these legal industries, and perhaps more importantly, discussion of these legal industries in online forums and elsewhere.”
The Freedom Network amicus can be found here.
The Reddit amicus can be found here.
The CDT amicus can be found here.
The full Institute for Free Speech amicus brief may be found here.