On Tuesday, February 22, legal prostitution looked death in the face. On that day, Harry Reid, US senator of Nevada, spoke to Nevada state legislature about education, clean energy, term limits, and outlawing prostitution. Although this final subject only amounted to about 6.5% of hisentire speech, it exploded into news coverage, chit-chat, the blogosphere, and heated debate across the country. While Sen. Reid was concerned that this portion of his speech elicited so much attention, he deserves public support for the strong stance he took, stating that “the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution.”
Why would Sen. Reid risk saying such a bold statement? He insisted it was because he wanted to “prove that we’re [Nevada is] a 21st-century state” revealing that he believes legal prostitution mars the reputation of Nevada. He followed with an anecdote about meeting a company who chooses not to move to Nevada over this very concern. Sen. Reid reasoned, “Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment – not as the last place where prostitution is still legal.”
Sen. Harry Reid is correct. Legal prostitution does give Nevada a bad name, but that is not the only effect this industry has had on its state. According to Shared Hope International’sresearch, Las Vegas, only 60 miles from a legal brothel establishment, is a major destination for trafficked children in the United States. But how do we know that legal prostitution actually encourages illegal human trafficking? The truth is that Las Vegas has become America’s capitol for prostitution and trafficking. This is supported by the fact that while brothels do not set up shop in the city, they and other escort services pay hefty fees to advertise in Las Vegas, creating a culture that accepts and supports the sex trade, and ultimately paves the way for illegal activity. Vegas residents and tourists are exposed to legal prostitution through advertisements and encouraged to participate in the industry. As a result, demand for commercial sex increases in high population areas. Where there is demand, there is supply.
In response to Sen. Harry Reid’s comments on outlawing prostitution, many brothel owners have either reacted in anger—like Dennis Hof who was interviewed by CNN—or dismissed the position entirely in hopes that Reid’s words will not inspire Nevada residents and legislators to institute a ban on prostitution. Lance Gilman, owner of the Wild Horse and Mustang Ranch brothels in Storey County said, “It is one thing for Harry Reid to say we ought to outlaw brothels. It is quite another for our Legislature to decide to take up a bill. If that happens then it is a whole different scenario.” Lance Gilman bluffs that he feels no threat.
Mr. Gilman created the opportunity for us to prove him wrong. And now we hold the power to perpetuate change and make a difference. Reid took the first step in sparking discussion, and we the people can unite taking the next step by creating legislation that outlaws prostitution in America for good. Spread the news to those in Nevada. Tell them to pick up their pens and write their legislators about the issue at hand. If lawmakers are ever going to make change, they’ll do it by the sheer will and determination of their constituents.