CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire House on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have made it crime for women to expose their breasts or nipples in public, a measure that caused an online dispute among several legislators that drew national attention.
The House voted against making it a misdemeanor for women to show their breasts with “reckless disregard” for whether it would offend someone. The bill was partly a response to a “Free the Nipple” movement that led to two women being cited for going topless at a Gilford beach. A judge dismissed that case in February.
The bill caused the spat among lawmakers in December after a male lawmaker said if women want to show their breasts publicly, they should be OK with men wanting to “grab” them.
Bill supporters had cautioned that allowing women to go topless at beaches could lead to them also going topless at libraries and Little League games. They said they were trying to shield families and children.
Opponents said such a ban violates the constitution by creating different standards for men and women.
In its report recommending the bill’s rejection, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety said it heard testimony from many who warned that, due to likely acts of civil disobedience, the state would face expensive court fees if the bill became law. The New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union testified that violation of such a law could be considered protected political speech, indicating the state would be unsuccessful in litigation.
The report said many believed the listing of an offender in the state’s sex offender registry after a second conviction to be an excessive punishment.
It said the bill also would place police officers “in the uncomfortable position of having to determine the gender of a potential offender.”
It added, “In a state with an average temperature of only 46 degrees, the risk of rampant nudity seems rather low.”