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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 j.turkewitz@housingworks.org.




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