Home' South Florida Gay News : SFGN 090215 Contents 9.2.2015 • 35
column publisher`s editorial
acts. It was designed to target businesses and
bribery not boys and their butts.
Unfortunately, the list of illegal acts covered
by the law includes crimes like gambling,
prostitution, drug trafficking, extortion,
bribery, and arson. While this is not a complete
list, the law provides Homeland Security and
the U.S. Attorney’s office a statutory and lawful
basis to conduct this investigation. It doesn’t
provide an answer as to why they did it or
whether they should have.
Rentboy.com allegedly violated New
York’s laws against prostitution, but the U.S.
Attorney’s Office is arguing that Rentboy.com
facilitated and promoted prostitution crimes
across state and international borders. It wasn’t
the government’s first use of this law either.
Last year, the U.S . shut down MyRedBook.com.
What if Homeland Security broadens
its investigation? Dozens of websites like
HourBoy.com facilitate similar advertisements
for escorts. Those businesses should today be
in panic mode. So you have this singular law
enforcement operation, suspect though it is,
chilling a score of similarly situated business
enterprises. But also let’s make something clear
escorting in a legitimate and legal business in
If the Department of Homeland Security is
successful in abusing the intent of the federal
Travel Act with this prosecution, it will only
extend the power of the federal government to
reach beyond its limits and further invade your
privacy as a U.S. citizen.
Sex Workers Have Rights
In separate statements, the Transgender Law
Center, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the
Harm Reduction Coalition, the Global Forum
on MSM & HIV, and the Woodhull Sexual
Freedom Alliance condemned the raid (see
Whether it is a pizza, a penis or some pot,
adults should have the free choice to have
dominion and control over their own bodies.
It is behavior you should control, not your
government. As Amnesty International noted
in its global report this month, “Sex workers
are one of the most marginalized groups in the
world who in most instances face constant risk
of discrimination, violence and abuse.”
The report recommends that Amnesty
International develop a policy that supports
the full decriminalization of all aspects of
consensual sex work. The policy will also call
on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full
and equal legal protection from exploitation,
trafficking and violence.
Research and reports on sex workers
internationally have shown they can be
exposed to physical and sexual violence,
arbitrary arrest and detention, extortion and
harassment, human trafficking, forced HIV
testing and medical interventions. They can
also be excluded from social services, including
health care and housing. It’s time to protect
them, not persecute them.
The persons using the Internet to engage
rent boy contractors are employing sex workers
professionally, not exploiting them personally.
Customers buy time and companionship. There
is no certainty that the shared experience will
result in a sexual encounter. Ultimately, what
the parties do after they meet should be a
matter for them to decide.
It’s morally presumptuous for the
government to suggest otherwise- and it’s
going to be extraordinarily difficult to prove
up as a matter of law that all of the 10,000 rent
boys on their website sold themselves solely for
sex. It’s going to be equally difficult to prove up
that the proprietors and employees of Rentboy
had any idea what their contractors were doing
every single time they met one of their clients.
If two people decide amongst themselves
to barter or pay for sex, with a car or cash,
why should that be illegal anyway? If that
constitutes prostitution, then it’s time, isn’t it,
to put an end to the laws making prostitution
illegal? You worry about the sanctity of your
bedroom, and Homeland Security gets to
work on the security of our borders. Perhaps
the attorneys for the defendants will use
this case to challenge the constitutionality
of New York’s prostitution laws. Perhaps it’s
because Homeland Security can’t protect our
borders, or secure them, or properly enforce
our immigrations laws that they’ve now turned
to this low hanging fruit as a way to proclaim
they’re doing their job.
The Raid Targets the
The ‘legitimate’ and ‘mainstream’ LGBT
organizations like the HRC are unlikely to
jump into this fight. They are too busy trying
to be accepted by the establishment to stand
up strenuously against it. Rent boys represent a
fringe element they don’t want to be associated
Nevertheless, don’t ever forget that the
LGBT civil rights movement did not start with
corporate Vice Presidents stepping out of the
closet in the workplace. It began with drag
queens taking to the street in Greenwich Village
and AIDS activists marching on Washington.
While we have put an end to sodomy laws
and advanced the cause of gay rights nationally,
personal acceptance of your sexual identity still
remains a challenge for millions of Americans.
Escorting services provide a vehicle and
conduit for human beings to explore their
own identities privately and individually. It’s
healthy, not harmful. Those decisions should
be protected, not prosecuted. Perhaps this raid
may the impetus to start a class action on behalf
of those whose rights have been compromised.
The government’s decision to target the
largest gay escort service in the world is
clearly a message to every other similar one so
operating. It says none of you are beyond our
means or outside our striking distance. It’s also
a threat to every young gay man and client that
ever contracted with RentBoy. The criminal
complaint enumerated only a few, but an out of
control prosecutor can target many more.
You only have to read the criminal complaint
to understand how badly the government
wants to go after the fetishes of the LGBT
community. With detail and specificity, the
government points to individual boys who have
openly advertised their services. Their position
is these young men promoted and engaged
in acts of male prostitution by advertising
physical attributes, sexual positions and pet
fetishes, such as water sports and spanking.
The complaint goes into much more detail to
try to prove every escort is selling themselves
The United States of Surveillance walked
out of the RentBoy offices in New York City
with dozens of cartons and a host of email
servers. Investigators employed by those law
enforcement agencies will now methodically
collect and systematically gather identifiable
data including your personal communications.
They will be stored and housed, saved for their
random review. If you feel uncomfortable,
unfortunately, you should be.
The cartons the Homeland Security Agency
collected won’t be discarded. They will be
reviewed and catalogued, gathered in a data
base so that law enforcement will know a lot
more about your lifestyle then you want them
to know. It’s up to us to make sure that does not
In closing, you should be outraged that
the rights the gay community has spent years
fighting for are now being compromised by a
misguided criminal prosecution of a gay escort
site that has been operating in the sunlight for
18 years. Using their powers and the existing
laws, our government has shut it down and will
likely put its operators in jail for a year or two.
The Department of Justice was so proud of
their Herculean effort three rows of special
agents showed up at the courthouse for the
defendants’ first hearing. Then I thought of
the journalist beheaded by ISIS in Syria, and
I said to myself, “my god, this is their idea of
safeguarding homeland security?”
What if the investigation turns out you used
the services of these young men? Are you next?
And what of these young men? Aside from
the obvious and immediate loss of income
streams, will our government not charge some
or many of them down the road? Will there
be constructive tax audits of their tax returns,
subpoenas to find out who their clients are,
forfeitures and asset seizures of their property?
Should we automatically presume an invasive
law enforcement agency will look the other
Frankly, we should all be very frightened.
The government has spied on us for a long time
in many ways. The only thing that has changed
is the way they do it. But every way they do it
compromises your freedom and the integrity of
law enforcement in America.
Norm Kent, the publisher of South Florida Gay News, is a constitutional
rights and criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
If two people decide amongst themselves to barter
or pay for sex, with a car or cash, why should that
be illegal anyway? If that constitutes prostitution,
then it’s time, isn’t it, to put an end to the laws making
prostitution illegal? You worry about the sanctity of
your bedroom, and Homeland Security gets to work on
the security of our borders.
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