U.S. Briefs: Selling sex is now legal in Maine
New law partially decriminalizes prostitution
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On June 26, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill that partially decriminalizes prostitution in what advocates describe as a new model for punishing buyers and pimps but not those who sell sex. The bill removes the crime of engaging in prostitution but continues to penalize purchasers of sex. It also reclassifies the crime of soliciting a minor for sex from a misdemeanor to a felony, with a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. Mills, a former prosecutor and attorney, vetoed a similar bill two years ago but changed her mind after talking with feminist Gloria Steinem, The Washington Post reported. Prostitution remains illegal everywhere else in the country except Nevada, where some rural counties permit licensed brothels. But some cities and states, including New York and California, have recently begun adopting more lenient approaches to prosecuting those engaging in prostitution, a move conservatives say could impede efforts to help trafficking victims. —Mary Jackson
District of Columbia
A former interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan was fatally shot while working a late night shift for the driving service Lyft. Police found Nasrat Ahmad Yar, 31, in his car after midnight on July 3 with a single gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Investigators aren’t sure why he was shot. Video released by police shows four people running away from the scene. Ahmad Yar translated for the U.S. Army Special Forces for a decade but came to the United States after the fall of Kabul in 2021. His family originally lived in Philadelphia but moved to Virginia, thinking it would be safer, after he was robbed at gunpoint. Ahmad Yar was the sole provider for his wife and four children. —Johanna Huebscher
Whitworth University, a Christian college based in Spokane, has abandoned its Biblical stance on sexuality. The school, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), announced June 29 it will now hire faculty who identify as LGBTQ. It also added sexual orientation to a list of protected classes that already includes color, gender, ethnicity, social or economic class, and nationality. Whitworth President Scott McQuilkin and Board Chair Brian Kirkpatrick said in a statement the changes would align hiring policy with “established practice.” Whitworth was founded in 1890 and has about 2,600 students. Several Christian colleges have recently made similar changes, including Eastern University in Pennsylvania. —Emma Freire
Archaeologists are excavating a possible burial site for children who attended Genoa Indian Industrial School in Central Nebraska. The boarding school, operating from 1884 to 1934, was one of hundreds established in an attempt to assimilate Native Americans into white culture. Genoa enrolled 4,300 children representing more than 40 Indian nations. Because diseases like tuberculosis and typhoid spread quickly in the overcrowded schools, cemeteries were a standard feature on campuses. The 2021 discovery of remains at a similar institution in Canada sparked interest at Genoa, where the final resting place of some 40 children is still unknown. Nebraska’s state archaeology office used historical maps, a geophysical survey, and dogs trained to detect the faint odor of decaying remains to select a dig site. Staffer Dave Williams told reporters the project of sifting for artifacts and answers to a century of questions has been a humbling experience: “It’s unlike any other work I’ve done as an archaeologist.” —Kim Henderson
The Mount Washington Commission in June postponed voting on whether its nearby namesake peak should change its moniker to Agiocochook, one of its Native American names. Easton resident Kris Pastoriza formally asked the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to make the change because George Washington owned slaves. Last year, New Hampshire approved May 21 as Ona Judge Staines Day to honor Martha Washington’s personal slave who was owned by her first husband’s estate. George Washington’s contacts pursued her after she escaped. The 12-member commission says it needs more public input and impact research before voting on the mountain name change. County, state, and federal departments are also examining the request. The peak is part of the Presidential Range that includes mounts named after Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Eisenhower, and Pierce. —Sharon Dierberger
Colleges may revisit policies that make it easier for students to file sexual assault claims after the state high court struck down procedures for Yale University’s disciplinary proceedings. In a unanimous June 27 ruling, the Connecticut Supreme Court said the school failed to provide “adequate safeguards” for Saifullah Khan, an undergrad accused of sexually assaulting a classmate in her dormitory nearly eight years ago. Those safeguards included a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine or confront his accuser, call witnesses, submit documents in evidence, or raise objections—all fundamentals of due process. “Those accused of crimes, especially as serious a crime as sexual assault, are entitled to fundamental fairness before being labeled a sexual predator,” the court concluded. While the ruling is binding only in Connecticut, legal analysts say it will have a ripple effect, causing college administrators nationwide to review procedures for what many critics label “kangaroo courts.” Khan was ultimately acquitted. —Steve West
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