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Federal Judge Says AIDS Groups Don't Have to Oppose Sex Work

By Julie Turkewitz

July 6, 2011

A law that requires AIDS organization to oppose sex work could go to the Supreme Court.

A law that requires AIDS organization to oppose sex work could go to the Supreme Court.

Good news for AIDS activists and supporters of free speech: Today, a federal judge struck down a provision of the U.S. Leadership Act that requires AIDS organizations receiving federal funds to explicitly oppose sex work.

The decision could have significant impact: All U.S. aid that goes toward fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide -- including PEPFAR money -- is authorized under the U.S. Leadership Act of 2003.

Read the text below from legal blogger Howard Bashman:

"The majority on a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today issued a ruling that strikes down as unconstitutional a provision of a federal statute that denies federal monetary assistance in the fight against AIDS to any organization "that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking."

According to the majority opinion, this requirement constitutes an unconstitutional condition because "[c]ompelling speech as a condition of receiving a government benefit cannot be squared with the First Amendment." The majority opinion also condemned the requirement as "viewpoint-based, because it requires recipients to take the government's side on a particular issue. It is well established that viewpoint-based intrusions on free speech offend the First Amendment."

According to the dissenting opinion, today's Second Circuit ruling conflicts with a ruling that the D.C. Circuit issued in 2007. For that and other reasons, this case may present a strong candidate for U.S. Supreme Court review should the federal government so request."

How has this law affected your organization? Email Julie Turkewitz at

This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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