The "free the nipple" movement could suffer a setback if lawmaker's "anti-free nipple" bill were to be passed in the New Hampshire legislature. Of course, if the legislature were to pass the anti-free nipple bill, the next question woud be, how does the governor feel about free nipples?
Lawmakers are backing a bill in the New Hampshire legistature to make it a misdemeanor for women to expose their breasts or nipples in public. They warned in a hearing Monday that failing to pass it could impact New Hampshire's tourism industry and potentially lead to rampant nudity throughout the state.
'It's a shame that some folks are more concerned with exposing their breasts in public places than they are concerned about how families and children may be impacted by being forced to experience this evolving societal behavior,' Republican Rep. Brian Gallagher told a legislative committee. 'This is about a movement to change the values of New Hampshire society.'
Gallagher is a sponsor of legislation that would make it a misdemeanor for women to show their breasts or nipples in public with 'reckless disregard' for whether it would offend someone. It's partly a response to a 'Free the Nipple' movement which caused two women to be cited for exposing their breasts at a Gilford beach last year. The bill has also generated an online dispute among several state legislators that drew national attention after a male lawmaker said "if women want to show their breasts in public they should be OK with men wanting to 'grab' them."
At a public hearing on Monday, backers of the bill warned that giving women the freedom to go topless at beaches is a slippery slope that will lead to women exposing their breasts at such public places as libraries and Little League games. Gallagher and Rep. Peter Spanos, a co-sponsor of the bill, said New Hampshire tourism would suffer if women are seen in public places with their breasts exposed. Both lawmakers said they brought the legislation in response to concern from their constituents over the incident in Gilford.
Opponents of the bill say that the ban violates the constitution by creating different standards for men and women. One Hampton resident, Kari Stephens, opposes the bill saying that she goes topless at the beach, and said that the bill would be taking away a right that women in New Hampshire already have.
'We are not lunatics, we are not radical, we're not looking to go to football games topless or libraries or school meetings,' Stephens said. 'If there is a man in a public space who is obviously comfortable enough, then why should I not have that same right?'
At the beginning of February, a judge dismissed the Gilford case. The judge said that the town lacked authority to prosecute because there is no state law that prohibits the exposure of female breasts in public. But the judge added women's exposure was not symbolic expression protected by the First Amendment and didn't find the town's prohibition violated any constitutionally protected right.