weather icon Clear

Why do Nevada brothels embarrass Reid?

So we’ve solved every other problem facing the nation, have we?

Otherwise, why would Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have the time to devote four paragraphs in his biennial address to the Nevada Legislature to the subject of outlawing prostitution?

And the ironies abound.

Reid denounced the budget cuts that Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed for K-12 and higher education. “These cuts, and calls for more cuts, undermine our most important goal: preparing Nevada’s students for the global economy,” Reid said. “If our priority is producing a work force that can compete with the rest of the world, let’s legislate that way.”

Precisely. So let’s impose the state tax on brothels that the industry has virtually begged for during the past several legislative sessions. It won’t solve the budget problem, but every little bit helps.

But no, Reid wants to ban prostitution entirely, which guarantees the practice of illegal prostitution will expand.

The senator seems to have come to his conclusion — after representing for decades the country’s last bastion of legal prostitution — after a corporate type mulling a move to Nevada raised concerns with the senator about legal prostitution in Storey County.

“So let’s have an adult conversation about an adult issue,” Reid said. “Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment — not the last place where prostitution is still legal. When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world’s newest ideas and newest careers, not its oldest profession.”

And again: “We should do everything we can to make sure the world holds Nevada in the same high regard you and I do,” he told lawmakers. “If we want to attract business to Nevada that puts people back to work, the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution.”

So we develop business by outlawing the biggest business in certain rural counties? That’s a question some lawmakers must have been thinking, since the obvious applause line met only silence in the Assembly chamber.

Reid may be embarrassed by Nevada’s continued acceptance of legal brothels, but the rest of us should not be. Compared to the way prostitution is treated in nearly every other state, Nevada’s approach is downright — what’s the word? — innovative.

Where prostitution is illegal, crimes abound: Johns risk robbery, beatings and sexually transmitted diseases. Prostitutes are often human slaves, abused by pimps and kept on drugs as little more than moneymaking machines. Police intrude into a consensual act, slapping customers and sex workers alike with criminal records for a crime no one otherwise would have reported.

With legal brothels, none of those problems exists. Women are voluntary employees, who are regularly tested for disease. Customers have no fear of robbery or becoming the victim of other crimes.

And the counties get a cut.

Besides, who’s to say Nevada can’t be home to high-tech clean energy projects and legal prostitution?

If we’re really to “have an adult conversation about an adult issue,” shouldn’t we be talking about expanding legal prostitution to all 17 counties, especially Clark? If the Legislature were to pass a tax on the industry, the revenue could help fix some of the problems Reid mentioned in his speech.

It won’t solve the state’s budget problem, but it would help.

Yes, we might lose some businesses that worry about setting up shop in a state where prostitution is legal. And we may lose some tourism to suspicious wives forbidding would-be conventioneers from heading to Vegas, even though many people believe prostitution is already legal here.

But those are the breaks. And as Reid well knows, brothels were here first.


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist. His column runs Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Following him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/SteveSebelius or reach him at 387-5276 or at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
STEVE SEBELIUS: No substitute for experience

State lawmakers should consider setting standards of experience for big-county school board trustees.

STEVE SEBELIUS: John Vellardita can’t lose

The head of the Clark County Education Association played the petition game perfectly over the last two years, and now is in a position to get even more than he asked for.