San Francisco will shortly vote on a kind of de facto legalization of prostitution within city limits. While the state of California prohibits prostitution, the referendum would prevent city police or prosecutors from spending any money on enforcement of those laws. Even the often-outrageous mayor, Gavin Newsom, thinks this is a bad idea:
A measure that aims to keep prostitutes from facing criminal charges has qualified for the November ballot in San Francisco.
The measure, which qualified Friday, would bar authorities from spending money to investigate or prosecute prostitutes for engaging in prostitution.
This is the second time the measure has attempted to get on the ballot. The Erotic Service Providers Union — yes, prostitutes have a union in San Francisco — tried to get enough signatures in 2006 but fell short. They managed to convince enough people to sign it this time, and one wonders if they had to put a new meaning on “by hook or by crook” to do it.
Newsom objects to the measure as an impediment to investigating sex-trafficking crimes. It also might present a major challenge to state sovereignty. If California cities do not have to enforce state laws, then the entire notion of the sovereign state collapses. The California legislature might have to change jurisdictional laws to impose a state police force on San Francisco.
All prurient curiosity aside, this vote could present an interesting political challenge for Californians. If the state lets this stand, where does its sovereignty end, or even begin?