The highest court in Texas just threw out a law banning "improper photography," saying that it violates the First Amendment. And so, once again, the free expression of putting a camera up a non-consenting woman's skirt trumps women's right to not have their genitals photographed by strangers. What a big win for democracy!
The Texas Court of Appeals ruled 8-1 that the law, which bans taking photos or videos of another person without their consent and with the intent to "arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person," violates the Constitutional right to free speech. This is because photos are "inherently expressive," said the judges. In the majority ruling, Presiding Judge Sharon Keller wrote:
"Protecting someone who appears in public from being the object of sexual thoughts seems to be the sort of 'paternalistic interest in regulating the defendant's mind' that the First Amendment was designed to guard against. We also keep in mind the Supreme Court's admonition that the forms of speech that are exempt from First Amendment protection are limited, and we should not be quick to recognize new categories of unprotected expression."
The Thought Police are now coming after innocent humans for merely thinking about photographing unwilling women and/or children and using those photos for sexual gratification... and then going ahead and doing just that. RIP, freedom.
Keller offered up some other bullshit explanations as well, including: "The camera is essentially the photographer's pen and paintbrush." Um, okay! But I don't want a strange putting a pen and paintbrush up my skirt without permission, either! And I'm sort of confused on how violating strangers for sexual gratification is "expressive" or more worthy of protection than the right to privacy.
Of course, this is far from the first time that a federal court ruled that women should have no expectation of privacy if they're in public without a foolproof vagina/breast/etc. shield on. Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that upskirt photos of fully clothed women are fully legal because, hey, that's the price of being in public, ladies.
While it sucks that women in Texas now have no legal recourse when they're photographed by hideous creeps against their will, it's worth noting that the Texas Civil Liberties Union opposed the law on the grounds that it was too broad: "It encompassed all sort of free speech activities," Jim Harrington of ACLUTx said. "It was actually used to stop people from taking pictures of federal courts and detention centers."
But, while this overly-broad law wasn't the best protective measure against creepshots, that doesn't mean they should be legal. Harassing and violating women isn't artistic, nor is it expressive. The law should reflect that fact.
Image via Shutterstock.