Why it’s legal in Minnesota to grab a woman’s butt

Most headlines in the morning paper do not surprise us. This isn’t one of them:

Legislation would make butt-grabbing illegal

Who knew grabbing someone’s tush isn’t against the law in Minnesota?

The Pioneer Press’ Dave Orrick writes that there’s currently an exception in the state’s sexual conduct statute, which sent us scurrying for the legislation.

He’s right. Lawmakers provided a get-out-jail-free card to the fifth-degree sexual assault definition.

For purposes of this section, “sexual contact” has the meaning given in section 609.341, subdivision 11, paragraph (a), clauses (i), (iv), and (v), but does not include the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks.

Sexual contact also includes the intentional removal or attempted removal of clothing covering the complainant’s intimate parts or undergarments, and the nonconsensual touching by the complainant of the actor’s intimate parts, effected by the actor, if the action is performed with sexual or aggressive intent.

A state Senate committee approved getting rid of the exception on Wednesday. Might be we suggest they reconsider removing the exception to removing intimate undergarments and touching intimate parts too.

It’s disconcerting to the nth degree that women had to explain why it should be illegal for men to grab their rear ends.

It happened to five women in a Fridley health club in November, according to one of the women, who was taking her children to swim lessons and was holding a 1-year-old in her arms at the time. The man “fully groped my buttocks” and continued walking, turning around only to smirk at her.

The woman, who lives in Columbia Heights, went to the police station and provided police a taped statement before learning it was irrelevant because that specific grope wasn’t against the law. The man was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct — but only because he also entered the women’s locker room.

“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. The committee is chaired by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, one of three lead sponsors of the bill.

There’s only really one question that anyone should have about this: What on earth was an early Legislature thinking?

Nobody seems to know.

Sens. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, who sponsored the 1988 sexual conduct law, think it might have had something to do with not wanting football coaches to get into trouble for patting a player on the butt.

So lawmakers made it OK to grab a woman’s butt against her will to protect the coaches.

Which makes perfect sense.