Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg signaled his willingness to support protections for sex workers amid CNN’s LGBTQ+ Town Hall on Thursday.
During a press huddle at the Democratic primary forum, the South Bend, Ind. mayor stopped short of calling for the legalization of sex work full stop, but he said it’s time to begin discussing the realities of the trade.
“I certainly think we need to revisit the current legal framework and look at FOSTA and SESTA laws that were... set up with the best of intention about dealing with sex traficking but may have actually endangered some people unintentionally,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an easy conversation but it’s time for us to have mature conversations [about it].”
Buttigieg’s remarks underscore his hesitation to share policy specifics about sex workers, and his words echo comments made earlier this year in a cover story for Out magazine.
In a May interview for Out’s Pride issue, the candidate said was “not ready to make policy news on this yet” and the issue “needs to be part of a larger conversation about how we treat sex workers and all of the reasons why this society hesitates to embrace the idea of sex work.”
The issue is one of importance for the LGBTQ+ community, given that advocacy groups report that queer and transgender people are more likely to engage in sex work andsurvival sex work. Yet even as his full LGBTQ+ platform “Becoming Whole” was released today, there’s no mention of sex work in the expansive 18-page paper posted on his campaign website.
Buttigieg is not alone, however. Of the two dozen candidates running for president, just four have expressed support for some form of sex work decriminalization: Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, and Mike Gravel.
In an extensive LGBTQ+ platform published the same day as Buttigieg’s plan, Warren said she is “open” to discussing the issue.
But in conversation with reporters on Thursday, Buttigieg did reiterate support for the passage of the Equality Act and expressed concern about the Supreme Court’s pending decision on nondiscrimination protections for workers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I just want to emphasize, even if the Supreme Court does the right thing,” he told members of the press, “[and] even if the Supreme Court upholds the idea that sex discrimination is workplace discrimination, we still are going to need an Equality Act because [a decision] doesnt extend all of the protections that are needed.”