Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


SEATTLE – Today Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles issued the following statements about U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez’s decision granting Backpage’s preliminary injunction against SB 6251:

“Prostitution is illegal and child prostitution is particularly despicable,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. “Kids advertised on Backpage, often runaways, don’t deserve to be victimized over and over, bought and sold like inanimate objects. Backpage says they work to prevent kids from being sold through their website, yet more than 150 cases of kids advertised there have been reported over the last three years. Meanwhile, Village Voice Media, which owns Backpage, reaps millions in annual profits from prostitution advertisements.

Rather than fight the selling of children through responsible business practices, Backpage has chosen to fight in our courts those who battle human trafficking.  While they are entitled to do that, we will do all that is within our power to see that they fail. Promoting illegal acts such as child prostitution is not protected by federal law or the United States Constitution. We strongly disagree with today’s decision and will consult with lawmakers and county prosecutors about our options moving forward.”

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who sponsored SB 6251, said, “Judge Martinez’s ruling today is very disappointing but proves it is time for Congress to reexamine the Federal Communications Decency Act and its application to websites that feature escort and adult content sections. The state of the Internet has changed dramatically since 1996, when the CDA was enacted by Congress. I also disagree that the Constitution provides protections for speech advertising illegal activity. There are many other details of Martinez’s ruling that need to be examined before further action. One thing remains clear -- we must continue the war against sexual exploitation of children.” 

“While we appreciate the Court’s careful consideration of Washington’s groundbreaking law, this is not the final decision on this matter,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. “We will review our legal options with our colleagues in the Attorney General’s Office. We will also look to our congressional delegation for help in protecting children from being sexually exploited on the internet. Finally, we will continue to ask Backpage and other websites who knowingly profit from the sex trafficking of children to put in place real protections that significantly curtails the exploitation of these victims.”

The bipartisan bill, SB 6251, was passed earlier this year by the Legislature to add new penalties for posting sex ads featuring kids. Washington state has 30 days to a file a notice of appeal or it may chose to proceed directly to a trial. No decision has yet been made.

More information:


Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725