Raleigh, North Carolina — A bill seeking to close up loopholes in North Carolina’s indecent exposure law is headed for a full vote in the state legislature, criminalizing any woman who appears topless in public.
Current statutes in the state prohibit the display of one’s private parts, but say nothing about breasts. A state court of appeals ruled in 1970 that breasts cannot be considered private parts — that reproductive organs only fall under the category.
However, in recent years, North Carolina residents have become concerned about the increase of toplessness in some cities, especially Asheville, where the annual topless “women’s equality” march is held in the public streets. Asheville was at the focus of last year’s “Go Topless” national event, which was organized by Jeff Johnson of Huntsville, Alabama, the 59-year-old manager of Over the Rainbow Pediatrics, who also serves as a children’s baseball and basketball coach and the youth entertainer “Sparkles the Clown.” Thousands attend the march each year, including young children.
As previously reported, at least one woman was also spotted going topless at Asheville’s Bele Chere Arts and Music Festival last summer. At one point, a senior citizen attempted to cover the bare-chested woman, but several officers restrained the elderly lady from doing so. When nearby Christians expressed their concern, police notified them that toplessness is legal in the state.
Christian News Network phoned Governor Beverly Perdue’s office and Asheville City Hall following the event to inquire why such acts were “legal,” but calls were not returned.
Due to the increase of incidents such as these, state Representative Rayne Brown recently proposed a bill that would make toplessness illegal. Brown’s legislation, which cleared the House Judiciary Committee with only one no vote, would make it a crime for a woman to expose her entire breast in public.
“There’s some confusion about the [current] law,” she told reporters. “I think our state deserves clarity on this issue.”
Under Brown’s proposal, if a woman is discovered with her breasts completely uncovered, she could be charged with a misdemeanor and face 30 days in jail. Should police determine that the woman was attempting to cause sexual arousal with her actions, she may be charged with a felony, and imprisoned for up to six months.
Breastfeeding will not be criminalized by the statute.
While many are supportive of the bill, others state that women who are bent on being topless may find ways around the law if it passes, such as covering only the bottom of their breasts with tape.
“You know what they say, duct tape fixes everything,” Representative Tim Moore of Cleveland stated.
Some women assert that it is their constitutional right to be bare-chested.
“Centuries of patriarchal, top-down religious education have trained women to be subservient to men, to be only child bearers and homemakers and to remain chaste. We must remember that it was less than 100 years ago that women finally won the right to vote in this country,” stated Go Topless president Nadine Gary. “Today, their emancipation is expanding to all aspects of life.”
However, others are deeply offended by the displays. Politicians Carl Mumford and Chad Nesbitt, both of Asheville, chastised area churches last year for doing nothing to stand against what they call “shameless and lawless” activity.
“The faith based community, per usual, played it safe and didn’t say a word. There remains a big difference in a house of worship and a religious country club devoted to member services,” the men declared. “Asheville has been called a ‘Cesspool of Sin’ – it’s a title that fits and an opportunity for people of faith. Less so for people of comfort.”