It hasn’t drawn as much attention as targeted killing, warrantless wiretapping, the ill treatment of Guantanamo prisoners, or White House meddling with the drug approval process. But the Obama administration’s dogged defense of the so-called “anti-prostitution pledge” has puzzled progressives as much as any policy in this president’s Bush-like second term.
The pledge law, adopted in 2003 to appease religious conservatives, bars U.S. support for any international health group that fails to speak out against prostitution—even if its clients are sex workers. Organizations as varied as UNAIDS, the World Bank and the World Health Organization have condemned the rule for undermining the fight against HIV/AIDS, but Obama’s Justice Department hasn’t budged.
Now, thanks to a new Supreme Court decision, the pledge will finally be scrubbed from the books. In a Thursday morning decision, the court declared that the anti-prostitution pledge violates the constitution’s First Amendment. As Chief Justice John Roberts helpfully pointed out, that’s the one that “prohibits the government from telling people what they must say.”