Sex Work Decriminalization Campaign Withdraws Petition

The withdrawal marks the second time in the past two years that advocacy groups have tried and failed to decriminalize sex work in Oregon.

An advocacy group seeking to decriminalize sex work through a ballot initiative withdrew its petition Jan. 21.

“We are fully committed to decriminalizing and destigmatizing sex work in Oregon,” Anne Marie Bäckstöm, political director of the Sex Worker Rights campaign, tells WW. “We withdrew Initiative Petition 42 to take a chance and tweak and improve the policy. We have never been more committed to this work and to the community, and that is why we withdrew.”

The group had filed its prospective petition with the state Nov. 16 and, in mid-December, it qualified to draft a ballot initiative title. It is unclear whether the campaign plans to refile again for the upcoming November election.

Bäckstöm says Aaron Boonshoft, the chief petitioner whom the campaign describes as “an Oregon philanthropist, an advocate of human rights, and a client of legal, consensual sex work,” made the decision to withdraw.

The withdrawal marks the second time in the past two years that advocacy groups have tried and failed to decriminalize sex work in Oregon.

Last February, state Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland) filed House Bill 3088 at the request of an East Coast advocacy group called the Sex Workers Project. The bill died in committee in June during the 2021 session.