Whore Next Door: Live Free or Die Tryin'

“You know, Hillary Clinton stays here when she's in town,” the hotel bartender told me as he poured my third glass of Sancerre just moments before last call at 9 p.m.

Concord, N.H., doesn't do late-night.

I had flown across the country for women in the past, but always in the name of romance. This time, my intentions were purely political.

New Hampshire State Representative Elizabeth Edwards is the primary sponsor of House Bill 1614, which would decriminalize prostitution statewide and hopefully set an important precedent. I had emailed her and left voicemails, but hadn't heard back; and since the timeline on the bill was tight, I decided to fly East to try and meet her in person.

I reserved an open-ended plane ticket and booked a hotel less than a mile from the State Capitol, all financed through money from an East Coast porn shoot.

It seemed like a proactive move when planning the trip, but when I woke up hungover the morning after my arrival, I suddenly felt like a psychopath. I wondered if I should just cut my losses and head home. What I was I even doing there — stalking a state representative?

New Hampshire's state motto echoed in my pounding head: Live Free or Die.

I couldn't give up now, I had come so far.

Still in bed, I reached for my phone and decided to try one more time.

This time, Edwards answered after just three rings, and later that afternoon, I was sipping frosty mugs of Thai iced coffee with her and her wife. They were close to my age, and had also gotten their starts in anarchist and LGBT circles in college.

“Like many victimless crimes, laws against prostitution disproportionately impact people of low income, people of color, and transgender people,” Edwards said. I knew I would like her.

She's only in her first term but already she's had some serious victories, championing criminal justice reform and legislation that serves marginalized people.

She said that H.B. 1614 was inspired by last year's game-changing Amnesty International recommendation to decriminalize prostitution worldwide. Edwards wasted no time drafting a bill so idealistic it was almost sure to fail.

“We have to start with education,” she explained, “which is why I didn't want to compromise on the first iteration of the bill.”

After compelling testimonies from sex worker advocates, H.B. 1614 received more than double the yes votes that had been projected, winning a recommendation of “refer for interim study” — not quite a no, but more of a “let me get back to you on that.”

“But I learned it's not over until the House Clerk's office receives the paperwork,” she said, one of the many hard lessons she's had to learn in this first term.

The paperwork was conveniently “misplaced,” which Edwards said through pursed lips is “extremely unusual.”

Though she recorded the entirety of the first executive session, the Criminal Justice Committee — many of whom are retired law enforcement officials — chose not to use the video for reference. Instead, she motioned to reconsider when the legislature met for a highly unorthodox second session.

Three of the six members who had initially supported the bill changed their minds.

In an impassioned speech before the entire State House of Representatives, Edwards valiantly requested they overturn the committee's ruling and go with the initial decision, but another Representative motioned to table the bill. After a swift, 152-to-145 vote, H.B. 1614 is now, for all intents and purposes, dead.

“Unfortunately,” Edwards says, “removing a bill from the table requires a two-thirds majority. So on a controversial issue like this, it's unlikely to happen.”

But she assured me that overall, the bill was well-received — especially for its first year.

“I knew from the beginning that this wouldn't be a one-and-done bill [but rather] a multi-year effort,” she says. “A ton of representatives offered their support in the future, so our goal of education has been at least partially met.”

Almost 500 New Hampshire state officials are up for reelection this year. Edwards says that now is the time for all of us to put pressure on whoever is representing us at the state level and say, “I care about prison reform and marginalized populations. What are you doing about these issues?”

Edwards told me there are no “good days” or “bad days” in state politics, but rather dozens of tiny victories and defeats. The road to change is long and arduous, and this momentary loss in the land of Live Free or Die must still be seen as progress.

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