Washington State Senator Proposes Repealing Law Making “Slander of A Woman” A Crime

Washington state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles recently introduced legislation in that state’s senate that would repeal a 1909 Washington state law making “slander of a woman” a crime. The law makes it illegal to use “false or defamatory words or language which shall inure or impair” the reputation of a virtuous woman, though the statute does allow individuals to slander “common prostitutes.”

Although it hasn’t been used in decades, the law was upheld by Washington’s state Supreme Court in 1914, which affirmed the conviction of a woman who was fined $50 for slandering another woman.

Kohl-Welles told the Associated Press, “This is one of those old laws that is really irrelevant now.” In a radio interview, Kohl-Welles added,

It violates equal protection — not only is it patronizing and a relic of a time when there were different cultural traditions, where women were placed upon a pedestal but were not given equal rights ? but its also unconstitutional.

Kohl-Welles’s proposal to strike the law passed the state Senate in February and goes on to the state House.


Seattle Senator wants to repeal slander law. Associated Press, January 24, 2005.

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