Groping Someone's Butt Has Been Legal in Minnesota Since 1988 Thanks to Loophole

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It is unclear how the butt-groping exemption was ever put into law in 1988. BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

Minnesota is attempting to close a bizarre loophole in its anti-harassment law, which explicitly made it legal to grope a stranger's buttocks without their consent - as long as they are wearing clothes.

A state Senate committee have agreed to get rid of a clause in their sexual conduct statutes which specifically exempts "the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks " 30 years after it was put in place.

It is unclear how or why the clause was included in the legislation penned in 1988. State Sens. John Marty and Carolyn Laine, who co-authored the law, believed it have may have stemmed from football coaches not wanting to break the law for giving their players an encouraging pat on the butt, in what prosecutors refer to it as the "coach's exception," reports the Pioneer Press.

It also appears many were unaware of the loophole until a woman who was sexually assaulted at a fitness centre shed light on the issue.

According to the Forum News Service, the woman holding her baby at a Lifetime Fitness Center last November when a man "walked up behind me and fully groped my buttocks."

After going to the police to give a statement, the woman was shocked to discover that not only was it legal what he man did in Minnesota, but he had actually done the same thing to four other women the same day.

The man was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct — but only because he entered the women's locker room to grope the woman.

"Unfortunately, this experience at [the health club] was not my first experience with sexual assault and I can tell you that being groped on the buttocks is just as demeaning, violating and traumatizing as the other forms of assault I have endured," the woman said in written testimony to the Senate judiciary and public safety committee.

When the clause does get removed, anyone found to have groped a person's buttock's will now be found guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine.

Marty, although one of the original co-sponsors of the law, told Valley News Live that he didn't write the exemption himself but praised the 1998 legalisation for its importance.

"It was the first time we were saying, 'Groping is illegal,'" he said.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Marty said people will no longer be as tolerant of such sexual misconduct as they were 30 years ago.

"'Oh, boys will be boys,' that was the old attitude," he said. "So it's a long time after we should be cleaning these things up."