Should Nevada ban brothels?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called on his state to outlaw prostitution. Many Nevadans are less than thrilled

Brothels are legal in some parts of Nevada, but Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants to put and end to the prostitution.
(Image credit: CC BY: .Larry Page)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) this week called on his state's legislature to close the brothels that are legal in some parts of Nevada, saying that "if we want to attract business to Nevada that puts people back to work, the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution." Reid's pronouncement was met with a chilly response, with one brothel proprietor on the scene telling reporters, "Harry Reid will have to pry the cathouse keys from my cold, dead hands." Is it really time for Nevada to outlaw the world's oldest profession? (Watch a local report about the controversy)

Nevada has more pressing problems: "Nevada is struggling with serious budget woes, difficult immigration questions, and one of the worst foreclosure problems in the nation," says Rick Ungar in Forbes. So it's downright "bizarre" that Reid would decide that now is the time to clamp down on prostitution. This is just "one more example of Harry Reid’s suspect political skills."

"The great Nevada hooker debate"

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Better to keep it legal and regulate it: While "I wouldn't want my niece or daughter or aunt doing it," it's best to keep prostitution legal so it can be regulated and taxed, says Bum Hess, a commissioner in a Nevada county where prostitution is legal, as quoted at Politico. Two brothels in Storey County brought in about $1 million in taxes last year — out of a $12 million budget. And it's not hurting business. "We've had plenty of Fortune 500 companies move into the industrial park" next to the brothels.

"Harry Reid’s prostitution lecture bombs"

And this is a local issue: Prostitution, and whether it's legal or not, is a "county by county issue," says Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), as quoted at KTNV News. Reid should keep out of this and leave it to the counties.

"Sen. Ensign: Leave prostitution alone"

No, Reid is right: The split between the conservative Ensign and the liberal Reid suggests that "legal prostitution in Nevada is not seen as a family values kind of issue but as an exploitation of women kind of issue," says Michael Tomasky in The Guardian. And in that case, Reid's right. Working girls in Nevada apparently don't get health care or retirement benefits. It's "appalling in our time" that women should be treated in such a way.

"The oldest profession and the second-oldest"

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