By Shelby Sebens
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Oregon may be about to enact a law that would make it illegal to take unauthorized photos up the skirts of clothed woman in public places, a practice known as "upskirting."
The bill, which would provide penalties of up to a year in jail for violators, passed the legislature last week without opposition. It now goes to the desk of Governor Kate Brown, who has not yet indicated whether she will sign it into law.
The legislation comes several months after an Oregon judge acquitted a 61-year-old man who admitted taking photographs up the skirt of a 13-year-old girl as she shopped at a Target store in suburban Portland.
Washington County Circuit Court Judge Eric Butterfield ruled in February that Patrick Buono did not break the law when he surreptitiously took the pictures of the girl in January 2013.
Supporters say that "upskirting" has caused problems for prosecutors in other court cases because there are no laws to prevent people from taking unauthorized pictures up the skirts of clothed women. Other states, such as Massachusetts, have passed similar laws banning the practice.
“Allowing Oregonians to be subjected to this injustice is outrageous and wrong,” Democratic state Representative Peter Buckley, the bill's sponsor, said in a statement. “Closing this loophole is not only common sense, it is absolutely necessary.”
The Oregon Education Association pushed for the law after a student took a photo up the ankle-length dress of an Oregon middle school teacher without her knowledge and shared it across the district.
"I tell every teacher I know about what happened to me in an effort to protect them from the same thing happening to them. I am not the first to have this 'up-skirting' happen, and the recent stories in the news prove I am not the last,” said the teacher, Dana Lovejoy, according to a copy of her testimony to lawmakers earlier this year.
"The fact that the action has been given a moniker is evidence that this is taking place too often and with little or no recourse for victims. Our laws have not kept up with our technology,” she added.
Brown's office declined comment on whether or when she might sign the bill but Oregon Education Association spokeswoman Laila Hirschfeld said she expected the governor to sign the bill, calling it "common sense legislation."
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)