Anti-trafficking activist files lawsuit to declare legal Nevada brothels unconstitutional

Anti-trafficking activist files lawsuit to declare legal Nevada brothels unconstitutional
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An anti-trafficking activist filed a federal lawsuit on Monday trying to declare Nevada’s legal brothels unconstitutional.

Rebekah Charleston’s lawsuit against the state legislature and Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) seeks to ban Nevada from allowing legal prostitution and create a $2 million fund to help women leave the sex trade, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Nevada state law currently allows legal brothels in rural counties with fewer than 700,000 residents.

The lawsuit asks the courts to declare the legal brothel ordinances in Elko, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Storey and White Pine counties unconstitutional.

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Charleston, who lives in Texas, alleges that she was trafficked by two pimps from 1999 through 2009.

The 37-year-old told the newspaper that she spent several weeks working at two legal brothels, the Love Ranch North and Moonlite Bunny Ranch, in Lyon County.

Both brothels were owned by Dennis Hof, a Republican businessman who in November won a seat in the state legislature less than a month after dying.

Her 28-page lawsuit, obtained by the outlet, alleges that her pimps sent her to the brothels as a “form of punishment” and that she was “not permitted to turn down a sex buyer.”

She was later moved to Las Vegas by her pimps “for greater profits in the illegal sex trade.”

“Something needs to be done,” Charleston said. “Because of the fact that I was trafficked inside the brothels, I just have to stand up and say, ‘No more.’ Women are not public, sexual property to be bought and sold.”

Charleston told the newspaper that her pimps were physically abusive.

She added that she and attorney Jason Guinasso, who tried to ban brothels last year, decided to file the lawsuit now following the #MeToo movement and Hof’s posthumous election victory.

“Prostitution is inherently gender-based violence, and there is no way to perform prostitution in a safe way,” she said. “The term ‘sex work’ is a euphemism that makes it sound like something it’s not.”

Guinasso told the Review-Journal that the recent election of a female-majority legislature could increase the success of the lawsuit.

“We’ve got increased public awareness leading to community action,” he said.

The Hill has reached out to Sisolak’s office for comment.

Lance Gilman, owner of The Mustang Ranch, told KOLO TV that his business will petition to join in defense against the lawsuit.

 "Every single worker at the Mustang Ranch is required to undergo an FBI fingerprint and criminal database background check every single year," Gilman told the station. "In over 4,000 work card applications filed over the last 20 years by working professionals and employees at the Mustang, not one has turned up to be a victim of trafficking."