On Monday Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law that will partially decriminalize prostitution in Maine.
The law, LD 1435, will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.
LD 1435 eliminates the Class E misdemeanor crime of “engaging in prostitution” — however, the purchasers will still be able to be charged.
The law also elevates the crime of solicitation of a child for commercial sexual exploitation from a Class D crime to a Class C felony, punishable buy up to five years incarceration and a $5,000 fine.
Language in state law related to the crime of “patronizing prostitution of a minor or a person with a mental disability” will be changed to “commercial sexual exploitation of a minor or a person with a mental disability.”
Likewise, the crime of “solicitation of a child to engage in prostitution” will be changed to “solicitation of a child for commercial sexual exploitation.”
“We are long overdue to better protect and decriminalize sellers engaged in prostitution without legalizing pimping and sex buying, acts that would expand the market in Maine,” said the sponsor of LD 1435, Rep. Lois Reckitt (D-South Portland).
“LD 1435 is the responsible, effective way to help the sex trade’s most vulnerable, particularly Maine kids,” Reckitt said.
The bill had faced pushback from left-wing groups that wanted it to include decriminalization of the purchasing or solicitation of prostitutes.
It also faced opposition from the right, from conservatives opposed to even a partial decriminalization of prostitution.
After vetoing a previous attempt by Reckitt to decriminalize prostitution two years ago, Reckitt opted for a new strategy for LD 1435, one based off the “Equality Model” of partial decriminalization of prostitution used in the Nordic countries.
According to Rickett’s April testimony to the Judiciary Committee on her bill, Sweden saw a 50 percent decrease in street prostitution and a significant decline in the number of men purchasing sex, while other countries — Norway, Iceland, France and others saw similar results.