LGBT Advocates Rally for Bill to Decriminalize Condom Possession

(Photo by Donna Aceto via Gay City News)

LGBT advocates push Albany to stop allowing the use of condoms as evidence in court cases concerning alleged prostitution. As it stands now, some LGBT members are afraid to carry condoms in fear of being arrested for prostitution. (Photo by Donna Aceto via Gay City News)

LGBT advocates stood on the steps of City Hall on June 6 to protest a state law that lets prosecutors use condoms as evidence in court. Essentially, reports Gerard Flynn for Gay City News, some in the community do not carry condoms in fear “that if police find condoms in their possession they could face prostitution charges.”

Opponents of the current law include district attorneys and elected officials, who joined the public demonstration in calling for the passage of a bill  – “stuck in both chambers of the State Legislature” – that would disallow prosecutors from using condoms as evidence in cases alleging prostitution. Given the city’s push for condom use, the situation’s a bit ironic, say advocates.

Council members and state legislators, as well as representatives of legal, human rights, and gay groups, told the rally that discouraging members of the LGBT community and sex workers from carrying condoms promotes the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, an ironic, even “schizophrenic” twist since the city runs a campaign promoting condom use to prevent the spread of STDs and to stop unwanted pregnancies.

The advocates called on Albany to pass the No Condoms as Evidence bill, known in the Legislature as S1379/ A2736. Existing law, they said, particularly targets members of the transgender community.

The controversial law makes LGBT immigrants particularly vulnerable, as one speaker detailed.

Johanna Vasquez, who is transgender, told the crowd of roughly 40 about being stopped by police several years ago as she walked along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. Despite pleading her innocence, the discovery of a single condom in her possession landed her in jail for a year, she said, due in part to her immigration status.

A Human Rights Watch report released last July documented in alarming language how sex workers and others, particularly transgender women, face arrest for possession of condoms. The arrests involve “degrading treatment and abuse at the hands of the police,” the report asserted. “For immigrants, arrest for prostitution offenses can mean detention and removal from the United States.”

Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, speaks at the rally. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice stands to her left. (Photo by Donna Aceto via Gay City News)

Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, speaks at the rally. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice stands to her left. (Photo by Donna Aceto via Gay City News)

With only two weeks remaining in the legislative session, passage of the No Condoms as Evidence bill appears bleak. Jim Vogel, an aide to Brooklyn state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, who has sponsored the bill for the past nine years, attributed some of the reluctance to “downstate/upstate politics” and a “conservative unwillingness to ‘rock the boat.'” The reluctance is nothing new with the bill having “died in committee” many times since 1999.

City Council resolutions may not have much influence when it comes to Albany but that doesn’t stop some local officials from pushing for the bill, including Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. Council Speaker Christine Quinn also supports a change in the law.

“No person anywhere should have to refrain from carrying condoms for fear of arrest or prosecution,” she said in a written statement from her press office. “Condoms are life-saving devices and should not be used as evidence.” Condom use, she continued, “should be encouraged –– never discouraged. Although we have made advances in the fight against HIV/ AIDS, the disease continues its devastating toll on our communities.”

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  1. Pingback: Post-gay marriage, LGBT groups still have work to do | cromulentjosh

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