Sex Worker Rights Campaign Refiles Petition for Decriminalization

“Like other campaigns this election cycle, our measure ran into ‘full text’ issues, and a refile was necessary to address that issue,” says the group’s political director.

The campaign that seeks to decriminalize sex work in Oregon has refiled its petition to begin gathering signatures for the November 2022 ballot.

As WW previously reported, the Sex Worker Rights campaign withdrew its initial petition in late January. It refiled after making “minor technical, legal changes” to the petition’s text, says Anne Marie Bäckström, political director of Sex Worker Rights.

“Like other campaigns this election cycle, our measure ran into ‘full text’ issues, and a refile was necessary to address that issue,” Bäckström says. “Additionally, we found an opportunity to make some minor technical, legal changes to the language to center the health and safety of sex workers. This is an important human rights issue, and we are determined to decriminalize adult, consensual sex work in Oregon.”

The enforcement by Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan of a rule that ballot initiative petitions must include the full text of the laws they would change has proven controversial this election cycle: The backers of campaign finance petitions are taking her to court over it.

The Sex Worker Rights petition seeks to protect sex workers from discrimination in the workplace and in custody disputes, and to offer Oregon sex workers whistleblower protections.

In December, the initiative had gathered enough sponsorship signatures to draft a ballot initiative title. The campaign refiled sponsorship signatures Feb. 11, and it anticipates an answer from the secretary of state by Feb. 25 as to whether it can again proceed to the titling process.

As with the last iteration, Aaron Boonshoft is chief petitioner for the refiled version. The campaign has described Boonshoft as “an Oregon philanthropist, an advocate of human rights, and a client of legal, consensual sex work.”

“Sex worker rights are human rights, and the denial of those rights enables human trafficking,” he said in a statement late last year. “The Sex Worker Rights Act would decriminalize sex work in Oregon for consenting adults, making them safer, and aiding in the fight against actual human trafficking. It’s time that we work together in Oregon to improve access to health, justice, and safety for everyone.”