Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, urging Nevada to have an "adult conversation about an adult subject," called on his home state Tuesday to abolish legalized prostitution.
The Nevada Democrat issued the call during a speech to the state Legislature. Anticipating the challenge to their livelihood, brothel owners and prostitutes traveled to Carson City in advance to attend the address.
Reid cast his plea Tuesday as an economic decision, suggesting major businesses will not invest in the struggling state as long as it's the last holdout where prostitution is legal.
"When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world's newest ideas and newest careers, not about its oldest profession," Reid said. "If we want to attract business to Nevada that puts people back to work, the time has come to outlaw prostitution."
Reid said other parts of the country do not "believe" in Nevada, pointing to its lagging education system and other economic problems. But he said Nevada must prove to the world it's a "21st century state."
He called for greater investment in education, while hailing Nevada's success in hosting renewable energy firms. But to turn the corner, Reid said the brothels have to go.
"I've talked to families who feel the same way, parents who don't want their children to look out a school bus and see a brothel, or to live in a state with the wrong kind of red lights," he said. "Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment, not the last place where prostitution is still legal."
The Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier reported that brothel owners were anticipating the remarks. Brothel lobbyist George Flint told the newspaper he was bringing at least a dozen "professionally" dressed employees to the speech.
Brothel owner Dennis Hof pledged to have "10 hookers in the front row."
Nevada is the only state where prostitution is legal, though it is confined to the rural counties and heavily regulated. Las Vegas and other more populated areas of the state do not permit prostitution.
The Supreme Court, incidentally, also weighed in on a Nevada brothel dispute Tuesday. The high court refused to consider a challenge to state laws prohibiting newspaper brothel ads in places where prostitution is illegal.