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Bill Would Decriminalize Prostitution In Maine

Maine Legislature
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
The Maine State House is seen at dawn from Capitol Park, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would decriminalize prostitution. The legislation makes a distinction between those who sell sexual services and those who pay for them.

Supporters of the proposal, including former sex workers, call it "groundbreaking." That's because the bill would maintain civil penalties for those who buy sex, but not those who sell it.

“In summary, the bill keeps prostitution on the books but creates defense for the seller while increasing penalties for the buyer,” says Democratic Rep. Lois Reckitt of South Portland, chief sponsor of the measure.

During a public hearing on Wednesday, some opponents said the bill goes too far. Others said it does not go far enough. For example, some would like to see the criminal records of convicted sex workers automatically expunged. There were also calls for increased criminal penalties for those who buy sexual services as well as suggestions that the bill include more resources to help sex workers who are apprehended by law enforcement.