Upskirting legislative action may happen Thursday

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State lawmakers said they will act swiftly to pass a law against up skirting. Credit: Flickr

There were signs on Beacon Hill Thursday that lawmakers may be ready to act quickly to address a high court decision Wednesday throwing out the state’s case against a man accused of secretly taking photographs up women’s skirts on the MBTA.

Rep. Paul Donato (D-Medford) told the News Service during a recess in the House’s session Thursday that Speaker Robert DeLeo is very concerned about the ruling, and House lawmakers want to address it quickly.

Donato said House officials were trying to figure out what legislative vehicle they would use to pass something quickly, with action possible later in the day. The House recessed its morning session, planning to return later.

“We are trying to find the right vehicle and the right language,” Donato said.

Meanwhile in a radio interview on Thursday, Senate President Therese Murray also vowed action, saying that taking photographs up the skirts of women on public transportation is sexual harassment.

The SJC on Wednesday threw out the state’s case against a man accused of secretly taking photographs up women’s skirts on the MBTA, arguing the women did not have a legal expectation of privacy on the trolley and were not partially nude as defined under current law.

The court found that the state’s law against secretly photographing or videotaping a person who is nude or partially nude was written in a way to apply to “peeping toms,” but does not cover “upskirting.”

During an interview on WATD-FM Thursday, Murray said attorneys on her staff and DeLeo’s staff have begun drafting a bill to address the court’s ruling.

“Where is our moral objections to these things happening?” Murray said. “Morally it’s wrong. The law should state that this is sexual harassment. There are all kinds of different harassment and this is sexual harassment.”

She added, “Technology is going to continually change. What about the very act of putting your hand under a woman or near underneath a woman’s skirt? That is a provocative act and that should be illegal.”

Murray said the court examined a “very narrow statute that dealt with electronic monitoring” that was approved in 2004.

“I don’t understand why they wouldn’t – and maybe it’s because of the way the case was brought by the DA – why they wouldn’t say this was sexual harassment whether you are in a public place or not . . . Now women, we are being told, have no right to privacy if we are in a public facility. That makes no sense to me. This is an assault on women and it should have been looked at that way. But we are going to act,” she said.

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