Actress Laverne Cox to support Phoenix transgender woman fighting conviction

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Laverne Cox By Catherine Holland Laverne Cox By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

"Orange is the New Black" actress taking part in open discussion Tuesday night

PHOENIX - A student and activist convicted under Phoenix's "manifesting" prostitution ordinance plans to file an appeal, and she is getting support from an Emmy-nominated actress, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.

Monica Jones, a transgender woman of color, made national headline when police arrested her in May 2013. She was convicted of a misdemeanor in April. Her lawyers call the law she is accused of violating, Phoenix Municipal Code Section 23-52(A)(3), "unconstitutionally vague and overbroad."

According to the law, certain behaviors are taken into consideration in determining if somebody in public "manifests an intent to commit or solicit an act of prostitution.

"Among the circumstances that may be considered in determining whether such an intent is manifested are: that the person repeatedly beckons to, stops or attempts to stop or engage passersby in conversation or repeatedly, stops or attempts to stop, motor vehicle operators by hailing, waiving [sic] of arms or any other bodily gesture…"

Attorneys for ACLU of Arizona believe the ordinance is unconstitutional, saying that it criminalizes a broad range of legal speech.

Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox of the hit series "Orange is the New Black" is lending her support to Jones.

An advocate for the LGBT community, Cox, like Jones, is a transgender woman of color. She has some serious concerns about the Phoenix law, which some call "walking while trans."

"[The 'manifesting prostitution' law] basically means that as a trans woman of color walking in a certain neighborhood, you can be arrested for prostitution," Cox said at 25th annual GLAAD Awards, according to "There is so much work that needs to get done to make sure that never happens again."

Jones is a social work student at Arizona State University and an advocate of sex worker rights.

In addition to Cox, ACLU of Arizona also is behind Jones and filed a brief supporting her appeal. The organization launched a social media campaign, asking people to use the hashtag #StandWithMonica on Twitter "to send the message that police profiling of transgender women of color must stop."

Jones and Cox are taking part in an open discussion about the issues transgender people, particularly women of color, face Tuesday evening at the Herberger Theater Center. The event is sponsored by the Arizona chapter of the ACLU and SWOP PHX (Sex Worker's Outreach Project, Phoenix).

While the event is free and open to the public, organizers strongly suggest you register.