California Dem Gov Newsom rolls back law criminalizing loitering with 'intent to engage in sex work'

Those who advocated for the roll back claim the law unjustly targets black and transgender individuals.

Updated: July 5, 2022 - 3:08pm

California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed into law legislation that will protect individuals from arrests for appearing to be loitering with the "intent" of engaging in sex work.

The bill – titled the Safer Streets for All Act – rolls back a measure in the California law on prostitution that explicitly prohibits "loitering in a public place" for the purpose of engaging in sex work. 

Prostitution in California remains illegal, Newsom said in a signing statement on Friday.

The new act will specifically target exclusively those singled out for "appearing" to be sex workers.

"To be clear, this bill does not legalize prostitution," Newsom said. "It simply revokes provisions of the law that have led to disproportionate harassment of women and transgendered adults. While I agree with the author’s intent and I am signing this legislation, we must be cautious about its implementation."

The governor also said that members of his administration will monitor crime and prosecution trends to watch for any potential "unintended consequences" of the rollback. 

The bill was passed by the Democrat-controlled California legislature in September 2021. During its introduction last February, sponsoring lawmakers referenced crime statistics from Los Angeles that showed black adults, despite making up less than 10% of the city's population, account for more than 55% of the loitering charges brought in the city between 2017 and 2019.

Loitering charges also reported disproportionately impact transgender women, statistics about which inspired ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, to roll back similar anti-loitering laws last year.