Amidst a growing push to decriminalize sex work in New York State, Senate Democrats are planning to propose legislation that would repeal a loitering law that organizers and sex workers have long claimed is used by the police to harass and target trans people. The law they are trying to repeal, commonly known as the “walking while trans” law, specifically targeted loitering for the purpose of prostitution. Advocates say that the loitering law has resulted in increased police profiling, which has led to unjustified arrests and harassment of many lgbtq+ people, immigrants, as well as Black and Latinx people.
In an investigation into the New York City Police Department’s criminalization of sex work published last December, ProPublica found that the majority of people arrested for prostitution-related offenses over the past four years have been people of color. During that period, people of color accounted for 89% of the people charged with prostitution and 93% of those suspected of paying for sex in New York City.
This will be the first time that a bill repealing the “walking while trans” law will advance in the upper chamber, and the Daily News reports that it is expected to pass in both the Senate and the Assembly, now that the Senate Democrats have a supermajority in the state legislature. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo first voiced his support for repealing the law last year, and this year he included it among his “State of the State” policy priorities.
The legislation is being sponsored by New York Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who has also sponsored the bill for the past few legislative sessions, as well as New York Senator Brad Hoylman.
“We need to get rid of the overly broad and archaic statute that allows transgender women of color, immigrants and LGBT youth to be profiled just because of the way they look,” Hoylman said. “Now that we’ve got a veto-proof majority and 37 senators as co-sponsors on our legislation, I’m thrilled that we’re taking action to correct an injustice that has disproportionately harmed vulnerable New Yorkers for decades.”