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Another victory: US judge once again bans anti-prostitution pledge requirement

In an ongoing court battle to protect freedom of speech and promote effective public health policy, a US federal judge on August 8 extended free speech protection to a broad range of groups working to combat the AIDS epidemic, ruling they are not obliged to declare support to programs targeting sex workers. More

In an ongoing court battle to protect freedom of speech and promote effective public health policy, a US federal judge on August 8 extended free speech protection to a broad range of groups working to combat the AIDS epidemic, ruling they are not obliged to declare support to programs targeting sex workers.

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This is the latest victory for free speech in a case brought by the Alliance for Open Society International (AOSI) and Pathfinder International to outlaw an unconstitutional and dangerous policy that forces groups receiving US government funding to denounce prostitution.

 

The anti-prostitution pledge requirement, passed by Congress in 2003 as part of the Global AIDS Act, violates the First Amendment by compelling private organizations to adopt a narrow-minded moral ideology that flies in the face of established prevention policy.

 

The pledge requirement hampers the efforts of health workers by forcing them to condemn the people they are trying to help.

 

The judge, Victor Marrero of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled in 2006 that the requirement violated the rights of the two initial plaintiffs in the suit, AOSI and Pathfinder International, and issued an order preventing enforcement of the anti-prostitution pledge requirement against them. The August 8 ruling extends that protection to the U.S.-based members of InterAction and Global Health Council, both large umbrella organizations of humanitarian and health groups that the judge ruled may now join the suit.

 

All plaintiffs had been required to sign the anti-prostitution pledge as a condition for receiving USAID funding.

 

For more information, see the AOSI press release and court ruling. Additional documents are also available on the Brennan Center AOSI v. USAID webpage.

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