Sparked by last year’s “Free the Nipple” protests, some prudish state representatives filed legislation that would make it a misdemeanor for women to be topless anywhere in New Hampshire. (They did make an exception for breast-feeding.) A topless lady would be facing up to a year in jail, were this terrible legislation to pass. Men would still be allowed to be topless under the discriminatory bill, HB 1525.
Thankfully, the bill is nearly dead thanks to a unanimous vote to kill it by the NH house criminal justice committee. The committee voted today 18-0 to “ITL” (Inexpedient to Legislate) the legislation. The bill is not yet off the table – that will happen later when the full house votes on it.
Liberty rep John A. Burt put forth the motion to ITL the bill and also wrote the majority “blurb” for the house calendar along with Free State Project early mover and state representative Amanda Bouldin. (Amanda previously had made headlines for defending topless freedom from attack by the prudish reps who proposed the topless ban.) Here’s the text of Burt and Bouldin’s blurb:
This bill expands the indecent exposure law to include the anus (regardless of gender) as well as the nipple and areola (only if female). The committee heard testimony from many who warned that, due to likely acts of civil disobedience, the state would face expensive court fees should this become law. The NHCLU testified that violation of such a law could be considered protected political speech, indicating that the state would be unsuccessful in litigation. The committee sees no sense in passing a law that cannot be enforced.
The committee also believes that this bill violates Art. 2 of the State Constitution, which states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of race, creed, color, sex or national origin.” This bill attempts to apply a law to women only. This bill would also place police officers in the uncomfortable position of having to determine the gender of a potential offender. Lastly, an offender (if convicted) would be listed in the state’s sex offender registry after a second conviction, which many considered to be an excessive punishment.
In a state with a nippy average temperature of only 46 degrees, the risk of rampant nudity seems rather low. The committee considers this legislation inexpedient to legislate for these reasons.
Today is a decisive loss for the prudes. To them I say leave topless women alone – your kids will be fine. If you don’t like seeing female areola, then advocate all public property be abolished and turned private. Then you can have a private beach just for people who want to keep their clothes on.
Stay tuned here to Free Keene for the latest on Free the Nipple NH.
In the Summer of 2015, Heidi Lilley and B. Liz MacKinnon were ticketed on Gilford beach in alleged violation of the town’s ordinances. In late December, they went to trial at Laconia district court and Free State Project early mover and attorney Dan Hynes put on an excellent defense. Judge James M. Carroll took the case under advisement and has now issued his six-page order: both cases are dismissed!
Don’t get too excited. If you read the order, you’ll find that Judge Carroll is no hero of constitutional rights or equality. Page three of his order ridiculously cites the private Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings system as evidence of a supposed “societal desire” to regulate female toplessness. Carroll argues that because the state’s three prudish witnesses (the three snitches) don’t appreciate female toplessness and because the town gave notice of the existence of the ordinance, that somehow means the town ordinance doesn’t violate the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution or Article 1 of the NH Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Given that Article 1 only mentions men when it says, “All men are born equally free and independent”, is it Judge Carroll’s opinion that only men were born free and that women can be told what to wear, for the good of “society”? He’s not foolish enough to come right out and say that, but his order does make excuse after outrageous excuse for the town’s ordinance, claiming it’s constitutionally sound:
The township’s compelling interest is met in maintaining the beach as a natural resource to be enjoyed by young and old , men and women, families and single persons while preserving appropriate standards that allow the township to maintain their local values and mores…The Court does not find that the prohibition violates any constitutionally protected right…the movement “does not have ‘a right to impose one’s lifestyle on other who have an equal right to be left alone.
Topless Tuesday, Keene’s Central Square, 2010
So, if the social mores were that all women must wear burqas, because seeing any skin at all bothered people, it sounds like Carroll would consider that mandate constitutional as well.
Though Carroll defends the right to marry either gender, he says that such marriage is a protected right, while toplessness is not. On the final page, he claims the toplessness in this case had no artistic value, while on page three he acknowledges the female nipple “has been the subject of great beauty in art”. Apparently Carroll is an art critic now, too.
Ultimately, Carroll decides the case in the favor of the defendants, but not on the excellent constitutional or equal protection arguments made by attorney Hynes, but simply on a technicality of the system: (more…)
“Who doesn’t support a mothers right to feed? Don’t give me the liberal talking points Amanda. If it’s a woman’s natural inclination to pull her nipple out in public and you support that, than you should have no problem with a mans to stare at it and grab it. After all, it’s ALL relative and natural, right?” – State Representative Josh Moore
Does Moore really believe that a woman going topless justifies a man committing assault and grabbing it? It’s hysteria like this that needs to end. They are breasts. Men and women both have them – it’s a basic human liberty to be as clothed as one wishes on your own, or public property.
Moore and his cohort, state representative Al Baldasaro were subsequently eviscerated on Amanda’s facebook thread, by countless libertarians. During the process, Baldasaro weighed in with another rude quip:
“No disrespect, but your nipple would be the last one I would want to see. You want to turn our family beach’s into a pervert show.” – State Representative Al Baldasaro
(All spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors by Moore and Baldasaro were left intact.)
Somewhere along the line, Slate published a piece featuring Moore and Baldasaro’s ridiculous support of oppressing topless freedom. That then led to several more major websites picking up the story. Here’s a quick rundown:
Hoping to overturn the illegal, discriminatory town ordinance, Lilley and MacKinnon teamed up with Free State Project early mover and attorney Dan Hynes.
Hynes’ line of questioning was interesting, specifically asking the state’s witnesses, which included three snitches and a few cops, how they determine someone is a woman. The all answered something about breasts, which is inconclusive. Without inspecting genitalia, which the police did not do, there would be reasonable doubt that the person is female.
Hynes argued, in a ten-page motion to dismiss (complimented by jovial Judge James M. Carroll) the ordinance is unconstitutional and violates equal protection and the right to free expression. Further, he argues the ordinance is also illegal because New Hampshire is not a “home rule” state and unless the state legislature authorizes towns to pass laws of their own, they cannot legally do so.
I got a sad letter from my attorney this week. He informed me that the Supreme Court of NH upheld the lower court’s decision to deny my application for a license to carry a handgun discreetly. You can read the decision here: