Around New England

Life’s A Bi— … Er, Whatever the Massachusetts Legislature Says It Is

October 22, 2019

Using the word “bitch” in a negative sense would become illegal and subject to a fine if a new bill before the Massachusetts Legislature becomes law and takes effect.

Massachusetts House Bill 3719 states:

Section 53 of chapter 272 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following subsection:-

(c) A person who uses the word “bitch” directed at another person to accost, annoy, degrade or demean the other person shall be considered to be a disorderly person in violation of this section, and shall be subject to the penalties provided in subsections (a) and (b). A violation of this subsection may be reported by the person to whom the offensive language was directed at or by any witness to such incident.

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 272, Section 53 states:

Section 53: Penalty for certain offenses

Section 53. (a) Common night walkers, common street walkers, both male and female, persons who with offensive and disorderly acts or language accost or annoy another person, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, keepers of noisy and disorderly houses, and persons guilty of indecent exposure shall be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than 6 months, or by a fine of not more than $200, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

(b) Disorderly persons and disturbers of the peace shall, for a first offense, be punished by a fine of not more than $150. For a second or subsequent offense, disorderly persons and disturbers of the peace shall be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than 6 months or by a fine of not more than $200 or by both such fine and imprisonment; provided, however, that an elementary or secondary school student shall not be adjudged a delinquent child for a violation of this subsection for such conduct within school buildings or on school grounds or in the course of school-related events.

It’s not clear that the bill would survive a constitutional challenge on free-speech grounds if it were enacted.

The bill’s chief sponsor is state Representative Daniel J. Hunt (D-Dorchester), a lawyer who in March 2014 succeeded current Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as representative for the 13th Suffolk District, which includes Savin Hill and Neponset in Dorchester and a single precinct in Quincy.

Hunt is the bill’s only sponsor. He had not released a public statement about the bill as of early Tuesday morning, October 22. State legislators occasionally file bills on behalf of constituents without supporting them.

Michael Graham of reported Monday, October 21 that a Dorchester resident asked Hunt to file the bill on her behalf.

The bill is scheduled to get a hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature on Tuesday, October 22. The hearing, which is expected to include about 70 bills, is set for 1 p.m. in Room A-1 and Room A-2.

The Massachusetts Republican Party is calling for people to come testify against the bill:



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