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Mass. lawmakers ban 'upskirt' photos after high court says they are legal

A Massachusetts bill banning "upskirt" photography has made its way to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk.
By Kate Stanton   |   March 6, 2014 at 7:07 PM   |   Comments

BOSTON, March 6 (UPI) -- Massachusetts lawmakers moved swiftly Thursday to pass a bill banning "upskirting" -- the practice of taking pictures from underneath a person's clothing without their consent -- one day after the state's highest court said it was technically legal.

Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to sign the bill into law as early as Friday.

“It is sexual harassment. It is an assault on another person,” Senate President Therese Murray told reporters after the vote. “Women and children should be able to go to public places without feeling like they are not protected by the law."

The legislature decided to outlaw "upskirting" after Justice Margot Botsford, of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, wrote in her decision that state law only protected people who are "nude" or partially nude." Women on public transit are clothed and in public.

"A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is 'partially nude,' no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing," Botsford wrote.

Botsford said that the prosecutors -- trying the case of a man who was using his cell phone to take pictures and video from underneath the skirts and dresses of women on public transit -- had a "reasonable" point. But she said that Massachusetts law did not "address" the problem.

"At the core of the Commonwealth's argument to the contrary is the proposition that a woman, and in particular a woman riding on a public trolley, has a reasonable expectation of privacy in not having a stranger secretly take photographs up her skirt. The proposition is eminently reasonable, but [the law] in its current form does not address it."

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley urged lawmakers to "act rapidly" to close the legal loophole identified by Botsford.

"Every person, male or female, has a right to privacy beneath his or her own clothing," he said in a statement Wednesday. "If the statute as written doesn't protect that privacy, then I'm urging the Legislature to act rapidly and adjust it so it does."

The bill passed Thursday, if signed by Gov. Patrick, would make it a misdemeanor to secretly take photos and videos of "the sexual or other intimate parts of a person under or around the person’s clothing" without their consent.

[Boston Globe, NPR, CNN]

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