The Post seems unduly concerned with the supposed difficulties incident upon "appearing to condone prostitution" resulting from taking any constructive, innovative approach to the problems of street prostitution in residential areas ("The Prostitution Question," editorial, Aug. 24). The Post has created a non-existent "straw person." The editorial reeks of rank cowardice.
Prostitution is a voluntary business transaction between two consenting adults, not in any way involving any third person; the prostitute is supplying a service to others who clearly desire to avail themselves of that service. As such, the government has an obligation and a responsibility, in a free society, based on liberty and on the "inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness," to assist, protect and support those adults in the conduct of their business, and to do so non-judgmentally, just as with any other voluntary enterprise.
Accordingly, prostitution should be decriminalized and then, like every other business, subjected to reasonable (i.e., neither harassing nor exterminative) regulation. In the street-prostitution situation, that would mean zoning--exactly the same treatment that would be applied to a noisy, dirty, smelly, traffic-ridden factory (or a bank or a supermarket, for that matter) that sought to locate in Logan Circle to the equal, justifiable displeasure of the residents. In short: "You may not do business here, but you may do business there," with the "there" clearly designated. Thus far, we have designated a "there" for the factories, banks and supermarkets, and so we do not have them in Logan Circle. We have never designated a "there" for prostitutes, so they go where they want to go, rather than where we want them to go. But that requires decriminalization as a precondition.
The argument that prostitution is not a victimless act, and so should not be decriminalized because it brings other crime with it, does not stand up to scrutiny. Banks bring bank robbers; stores bring shoplifters. We do not close up the banks and stores, thereby instantly reducing the incidence of those crimes to absolute zero; we go after the robbers and shoplifters, not the bankers and storekeepers, so that the latter can continue to conduct their business free of victimization by the former. Prostitutes and their customers deserve identical protection from what is their government, too.
Obviously such an approach will be fought, tooth and nail, by the Committee of 100 Clergymen, the Moral Majority types and others who have always opposed anything that would benefit the District, and have never contributed anything constructive to solution of our problems. They should be ignored. Every poll taken in recent years has shown that a sizable majority of D.C. residents approves decriminalization of prostitution.
As The Post clearly recognizes, the old, tried-and- false approaches to this question have been shown to be utterly bankrupt; they are of proven worthlessness. It is about time that a courageous, resolute, progressive city council braced its shoulders and enacted a comprehensive, carefully drafted decriminalization/reasonable regulation package for prostitution in the District, and set a lead for other cities everywhere. And if that appears to condone prostitution, so be it! Prostitutes and their customers are citizens, too, and have a right to expect to be condoned by their government. Courage, anyone?