DOJ sues Tennessee for violating the ADA by enforcing the state’s aggravated prostitution statute against PLHIV

Department of Justice sign on Building Wall

Today the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Bureau of Administration (TBI) for their maintenance and administration of the aggravated prostitution offense and its associated sex offender registry (SOR) requirement. This follows the December 1, 2023, DOJ letter, which found that the aggravated prostitution offense violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The DOJ findings letter was a result of complaints filed by CHLP in January 2022.

In its complaint, the DOJ reiterated its previous conclusion that the aggravated prostitution law subjects people living with HIV to harsher criminal penalties solely because of their positive HIV status, regardless of any actual risk of harm. Additionally, the DOJ again explained the lasting and significant consequences of registration on the SOR. The DOJ similarly requested several remedies, including requiring Tennessee to stop enforcement of the statute and registration requirements, remove folks solely convicted of aggravated prostitution from the registry, expunge all records of conviction or registration for aggravated prostitution, and compensate all convicted folks for court fines and fees. 

The lawsuit signals the DOJ's commitment to ending this discrimination against PLHIV in Tennessee and emphasizes the importance of fully and properly addressing the DOJ's demands. Moving forward, the DOJ lawsuit may be joined with the existing lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Transgender Law Center, and the ACLU of Tennessee. 

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