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Supreme Court To Consider Rule That Federally Funded HIV/AIDS Groups Must Oppose Sex Work

Supreme Court To Consider Rule That Federally Funded HIV/AIDS Groups Must Oppose Sex Work

January 15, 2013 — The Supreme Court on Friday announced that it will consider a case over whether the federal government can require federally funded HIV/AIDS groups that work abroad to implement policies against sex work and sex trafficking, Reuters reports (Stempel, Reuters, 1/11).

The lawsuit involves the government's efforts to overturn a 2011 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with the groups that the requirement -- as part of a provision in the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003 -- undermines their anti-HIV/AIDS initiatives and violates their free-speech rights.

In the 2-1 appeals court ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote, "Compelling speech as a condition of receiving a government benefit cannot be squared with the First Amendment" (Barnes, Washington Post, 1/11).

However, the government argues that requiring the recipient groups to publicly oppose sex work and sex trafficking could change behavior to curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS. In its appeal to the high court, the government said the 2nd Circuit decision conflicts with a 2007 decision by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. (Reuters, 1/11).

According to the Washington Post, Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, likely because she worked on it during her time as President Obama's solicitor general (Washington Post, 1/11). Oral arguments are expected to begin in April (Reuters, 1/11).