AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate handed Wednesday a invoice to partially decriminalize prostitution whereas rising penalties in some circumstances for getting intercourse, placing the change on observe to get by way of the Legislature.
The invoice from Rep. Lois Reckitt, D-South Portland, cleared the Home final month, with seven Republicans becoming a member of the Democratic majority in backing it. It nonetheless faces votes in each chambers, and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills vetoed the same invoice in 2021.
Democrats pushed the measure by way of the Senate on Wednesday, with Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, the lone Republican to assist it. Others in his occasion favored an unsuccessful modification from Minority Chief Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, that will have saved prostitution unlawful whereas retaining the authorized defenses — equivalent to being threatened or compelled by way of medicine and alcohol — obtainable to an individual charged with the crime.
Mills, who vetoed the same invoice from Reckitt two years in the past over issues it will result in extra human trafficking, has not but commented on this 12 months’s measure. The previous prosecutor and legal professional normal might be the foremost impediment to the invoice this time as effectively.
Partaking in prostitution is at present a Class E misdemeanor in Maine, punishable by as much as six months in jail and a $1,000 high quality. The invoice would get rid of that penalty whereas elevating the crime of searching for the prostitution of a kid or individual with a psychological incapacity from a Class D misdemeanor to a Class C felony punishable by as much as 5 years in jail and a $5,000 high quality.
Reckitt stated different nations have seen optimistic outcomes with implementing partial decriminalization, saying she labored on her invoice with quite a few survivors of human trafficking.
“I’ve pledged to those survivors that earlier than I step down, I’ll attempt to verify I discover each place in state authorities the place they might be helped underneath present legislation,” Reckitt, who’s in her fourth consecutive time period and can’t run once more as a result of time period limits, stated earlier this week.
However she confronted pushback from left-leaning teams that needed her invoice to additionally embody decriminalization for consumers of intercourse and from conservatives who’re uncomfortable with permitting prostitution in any type.
“We completely can not create a extra open pathway to a demoralizing and dehumanizing but authorized and profitable enterprise,” Assistant Senate Minority Chief Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, stated on the ground Wednesday.
Hawaii grew to become the primary state to undertake the “partial decriminalization” mannequin in 2021 and is amongst a number of states this 12 months which have thought-about full decriminalization.