LYON COUNTY, Nev.—Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has ordered all legal brothels closed for the forseeable future in response the COVID-19 Pandemic. Alice Little, a licensed sex worker operating out of a legal brothel in Lyon County, has instituted legal proceedings against Sisolak over his refusal to reopen the Silver State’s legal bordellos.
The complaint can be accessed here.
Prominent First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza of the Randazza Legal Group will he taking this case. Little is the highest-earning courtesan at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel.
“I believe that Nevada’s sex workers have been treated unfairly by the governor,” Little said. “For months, businesses that involve close physical contact, like tattoo shops and massage parlors, have been allowed to reopen while the legal brothels remain shuttered. If it’s safe for a customer to get a massage at a massage parlor, then it should be safe for a customer to visit a legal sex worker if COVID-19 precautions are taken.
“The brothels have been closed for more than half of this year,” Little added. “Sex workers like me are suffering financially and emotionally. We have minimal options for economic relief and limited alternative employment opportunities due to our stigmatized work history. The governor’s decision to keep the brothels closed is arbitrary, unconstitutional, and in direct violation of my right to earn a living.”
Since the early 1970’s, Nevada has been the only state in the U.S. to legalize prostitution in the form of licensed and regulated brothels. In March, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered all nonessential businesses in the state to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His order specifically named brothels among these “nonessential” businesses. While many nonessential high-contact businesses have received permission to resume operations, such as salons, spas and massage parlors, and dentists and hygienists, the governor has yet to give the go-ahead for Nevada’s legal houses of prostitution to reopen.
Little makes the following points in her lawsuit:
• The Nevada Constitution affords constitutional protections to the freedom of association. This liberty protects against unjustified government interference with an individual’s choice to enter into and maintain certain intimate or private relationships.
• The freedom to enter into and carry on certain intimate or private relationships is a fundamental element of liberty protected by the Nevada Constitution.
• Plaintiff and virtually all sex workers in Nevada have “regular customers,” with whom they have long-standing relationships, which can only be legally maintained in licensed brothels, because paid sex work is not legal outside of licensed brothels .
• The relationship between a sex worker and her client is arguably the most honest sexual relationship possible, as all parties are clear about the other’s intentions and parameters.
• Plaintiff has relationships with some clients who are “monogamous” with her—and they even sport outward displays of this relationship loyalty.
• A number of Plaintiff’s regular clients, due to sexual abuse or trauma, only feel comfortable being in this type of relationship. A “consent forward” relationship is emotionally safest for them. “Consent forward” meaning that all intimate actions are discussed in full before they happen which is always the case in Little’s relationships.
Little also notes that Gov. Sisolak’s shutdown order interferes not only with her means of making a living, but also with the property right she holds by virtue of being a licensed sex worker in the state, a violation not only of the Nevada State Constitution’s Article I Section 8, but also of the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment guarantee against the taking of property without compensation.
“2021 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the legalization of prostitution in Nevada,” Little said. “Over the past fifty years, Nevada’s legal sex workers have boosted the economy of the rural communities where brothels reside by providing safe and healthy adult entertainment to millions of tourists and residents. We have proven, despite tremendous denigration, that sex work can be an unmistakably legitimate and empowering occupation when prostitution is legalized and regulated by the state.”
In 2018, anti-sex-work activists sought a referendum to ban legal brothels in Lyon and Nye counties and, in 2019, a bill aiming to permanently shut down the state’s bawdy houses was introduced in the Nevada Senate. Aggressive lobbying by Little and other Nevada sex workers in part led to the rejection of the brothel ban referendum in Lyon County by 80 percent of voters, and the similar effort to ban brothels in Nye County failed to get enough signatures on a referendum petition. The bill to criminalize brothels statewide also fell through in the Legislature.
“Nevada’s legal sex workers have stood the test of time and we’ve earned our seat at the table. I won’t let the governor’s capricious actions devastate our livelihoods during this pandemic,” Little said. “Sex workers deserve to be treated like other hard-working women in Nevada, and I’ll fight for our right to work.”
For more Information on Little, visit TheAliceLittle.com. Follow her on Twitter @thealicelittle, Instagram @thealicelittleofficial, and Facebook. Her YouTube channel hosts an educational series intended to reframe society’s view of prostitution.