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On April 3, 2020, the leading conservative candidate for the 7th Congressional District, Renee Unterman issued a statement regarding the Georgia Association of Club Executives, Inc. lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Safe Harbor Act.

Senator Renee Unterman, seen here reading to students during Georgia Pre-K Week, calls for a recent ruling that the Safe Harbor Act is unconstitutional, be appealed. Photo – John Vaughn

“While a pandemic scours our state and courts have long been shuttered, activist Atlanta Judge Constance C. Russell sided with the strip club owners to protect sex traffickers and set aside the votes of millions of more than 3 million Georgians,” said Unterman.

In September 2015, Unterman supported Senate Bill 8, also known as the “Safe Harbor Act” or “Rachel’s Law,” which aims to provide “rehabilitative care and social services for sexually exploited children.” The bill required “adult entertainment establishment[s to] pay… equal to the greater of 1 percent of the previous year’s revenue, or $5,000.” In November 2016, Georgia voters favorably added the Safe Harbor Act to the Georgia Constitution, with 83.3% of voters supporting the bill.

In 2017, as a response to the Safe Harbor Act, the Georgia Association of Club Executives, filed a lawsuit to overturn this law, in fear it would cut into their revenue. On Thursday, April 2, Fulton County Judge, Judge C. Russell, claiming that assisting sexually exploited children was not a “compelling state interest,” ruled in their favor. In her opinion, the bill was “unconstitutional.”

“We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Unterman countered, “a lesson that has become especially clear in recent days. Victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, especially children, deserve the utmost protection and chances for a brighter future.”

Unterman points out the rampant sex trafficking that plagues the state. According to a Human Sex report conducted in 2019, Georgia ranks as the seventh-worst state for sex trafficking in the United States. The Safe Harbor Act aims to combat this issue and, as Unterman asserts, the “laws [they have] passed to combat human trafficking are actually working!”

Unterman continued to state that “Judge Russell’s order is nothing more than the work of a liberal activist judge in Atlanta legislating from the bench and trying to sneak in bad ruling as our state prepares to shelter in place,” the latter in reference to the Georgia Stay at Home ordinance issued by Governor Brian Kemp Thursday evening.

Unterman implored Attorney General Chris Carr who, as she says, “shares [her] passion for protecting Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens,” to file an appeal.

“I am confident the Georgia Court of Appeals, and perhaps the Georgia Supreme Court if necessary, will overturn Judge Russell’s incorrect interpretation,” states Unterman.

— Staff Reports

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