On Thursday, September 20, 2012 I was invited to attend the “Oppose Prop 35” meeting with the Los Angeles Times’ Editorial Board to assist them in making their case as to why the Times should take a position against this badly worded, overly broad and draconian law. I was invited to speak by Maxine Doogan, the head of the Oppose Prop 35 movement ( http://www.Twitter.com/OpposeProp35 ). Also in attendance was Steven Munkel from the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (http://www.cacj.org/) and woman that worked as a social worker for more than 20 years.
Representing the Times were Robert Greene, Dan Turner & Sandra Hernandez ( http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-op-edboardbios23oct23,0,4130157.htmlstory )
If you have been following my blog you obviously know that I am personally against Prop 35 and the sweeping changes it would bring to how prostitution related charges are handled by the criminal justice system and the fines/penalties it would impose on escorts and their families.
While I am in full support of ending all forms of human trafficking I am against doing it at the expense of the others that would be caught up in the same net as those that are true human traffickers. One of the worst side-effects of any law is how it may impact the lives of people it was never aimed at. This is part of the problem with Prop 35. Under Prop 35, the family members of independent escorts and anyone else who may receive support from an independent escort could end up being arrested and prosecuted as sex traffickers, even children.
Another issue with Prop 35 is how it impacts free speech. Anyone that currently is or will end up being a registered sex offender, if Prop 35 passes, will now have to self-report all of their online alias with local enforcement within 24 hours of creation of the account. At first this might seem like a good idea. Often the general belief is that registered sex offenders should be monitored online. Until you realize that 1 out of every 247 men in California are registered sex offenders and that you could end up as a registered sex offender for something as simple as being nude in public. Registered sex offenders use to be child predators. Now they could be and probably are your neighbors. Someone could be a registered sex offender for having an indiscriminate sexual encounter in public. Getting a blow-job from your wife in public can cause you to be a registered sex offender. Perhaps it is not the smartest thing to do but to be a registered sex-offender for it I believe goes to far.
Once you start to realize that the actual violent child predators will be lost amongst all of the non-violent registered sex offenders the idea of monitoring them online even becomes more of a problem. Thus, many non-violent register offenders who may have done nothing more than flashed a boob in public would have to call the police and inform them of every Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Myspace, Pinterest account and every other forum/message board aliases they use online. And as they join additional social networking sites they have a continuing duty to report those alias or be arrested and charged with a felony or misdemeanor.
That is an element to the law that not only obviously chills free speech but may end much of it. Who would want to comment on a Los Angeles Times article if they had to immediately call their local police department and report their new alias ?
I contributed what I could to the discussion. The majority of the presentation was handled by Mr. Munkel and Ms. Doogan. I did get to speak as to how Prop 35 will chill free speech. I believe that the three members of the Editorial Board we met with certainly took our position seriously. They engaged us, asked numerous questions and took copious notes. They even recorded the session so that our position could be shared with other members of the Editorial Board who could not attend personally.
Prop 35 is unfortunately what I call a “feel good” ballot measure. It is difficult to believe that most people’s first response won’t be to simply vote yes on it. The idea of stopping human trafficking is one that everyone can agree on. The problem with this law is that it requires an educated voter to understand the problems with its passage. Laws such as Prop 35 should be left to the California Legislature to debate, draft and enact. Asking the general public about whether government funds should be used to pay for a new football stadium is the proper use of Initiative & Referendum process. It should not be used for laws that could place people in jail for life. At this point, all I and the Oppose Prop 35 group can hope is that the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board will see the flaws in this law and recommend that California voters not support it. Once their decision is made public I will update this article.