A Phoenix transgender woman convicted on prostitution charges appealed this week to the Arizona Supreme Court, calling her conviction discrimination, and actress Laverne Cox is using her celebrity to draw attention to the case.
In April, 29-year-old Monica Jones was found guilty of "manifesting prostitution" after she accepted a ride from an undercover police officer during an antiprostitution sting last May.
Jones's conviction stems from a controversial Phoenix ordinance that grants officers the ability to arrest someone for engaging passersby in conversation while walking down the street, waving at cars in an attempt to stop them, asking someone if they're a police officer, or attempting to touch someone's genitals. The aforementioned examples are all considered indications of one's intent to "manifest prostitution" under the ordinance. Critics of the law argue it is too broadly worded and that it incentivizes racial profiling.
Jones's attorney, Jean-Jacques Cabou, argues that the anti-sex work ordinance violates his client's First Amendment right to free speech, saying at a Tuesday press conference, "This law abridges a lot of pure speech; speech like speaking, speech like asking questions, speech like what you can wear."
Joining Jones Tuesday was Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox, who had spoken out about the case even while being honored during the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles in April.
"So often our identities as trans women of color are stigmatized and criminalized, and so I felt like it was my duty. I had to be here, and I was so moved by your courage," Cox told Jones during the press conference. "Obviously, I have a lot going on right now in my life, but I just felt like I had to be here to lend my voice and whatever platform I have [so that] hopefully more people pay attention to this case. I think the goal should be overturning laws like this and then really understanding the kind of environment that we're all creating as citizens of this country for trans women of color."
Watch Cox deliver these comments below: