SEATTLE – The Washington State Attorney General’s Office and the King County Prosecutor’s Office today argued in defense of a state law to protect kids from being sold for sex.
“Lawmakers from both parties sent a clear message that kids deserve more protection from pimps and johns,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. “The fact that there have been arrests involving more than 150 kids marketed for sex on Backpage demonstrates the urgency of this new law.”
Today, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez heard oral arguments in response to a lawsuit brought by Backpage.com, LLC against Washington state and all 39 counties. The lawsuit asks the court to declare Senate Bill 6251 invalid and to stop its enforcement, which was scheduled to take effect June 7, 2012. Backpage also asks to be awarded damages. Senior Assistant Attorney General Lana Weinmann, who heads the Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division, argued the state’s position, that SB 6251 is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes.
The new law was written to keep minors from being sexually exploited by being advertised on Backpage and in other publications. The hearing today addressed Backpage’s request for a preliminary injunction stopping the law. While Judge Martinez heard arguments, he issued no ruling.
“Today’s hearing proved that Backpage can no longer claim ignorance of the repeated sexual exploitation of children on their website,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. “We need this law to hold accountable those who would commit such abuse and those who would knowingly profit from it.”
Several officials in support of the new anti-trafficking law offered the following statements:
- Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who sponsored SB 6251, said, “I appreciate the attorneys working to defend this groundbreaking law, the first of its kind in the country. The legislation was crafted with careful attention to passing constitutional muster and compliance with federal statutes with input from a multitude of stakeholders. I hope the court agrees that the clear intent of the law is to protect vulnerable youth from further sexual exploitation through being sold in classified advertisements for adult escort services. Such advertising without requiring in-person age verification must end.”
- "I am confident that the court will agree with me that there is no first amendment right to abuse, exploit and endanger children," said state Senator Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, a co-sponsor of SB 6251. "Protecting our children and ending the scourge of sex trafficking should be our number one priority."
- “We are calling on Village Voice Media to choose protecting children over protecting their own profits,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “Seattle, our region and our state are leading the country in fighting the sexual exploitation of children on Backpage. I look forward to the day when our legal system will be empowered to hold Village Voice Media accountable for their actions.”
- Former State Representative Velma Veloria, author of the first legislation to make human trafficking a state crime, said, “We, in this state, are working hard to prevent human trafficking. The least the Village Voice and its subsidiaries can do is join us in the struggle and not be a deterrent! Where is their corporate responsibility?”
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725