Bill banning bosom baring gets airing Monday

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Several protesters advancing the "Free the Nipple" movement pose for photographs at Hampton Beach last August. (Bruce Snyder/Reuters)

CONCORD, N.H. - Following a firestorm of criticism over semi-nude protests and demonstrations last summer at New Hampshire tourist beaches, the "Free the Nipple" battle moves to the Statehouse on Monday when a bill designed to make going topless illegal gets an airing before a House committee.

The bill - HB 1525 - would expand the language of the state's indecent exposure laws from genitalia to include women's breasts.

Members of the "Free the Nipple" movement say breasts are no more sexual than lips and it should be a women's right to bare them.

So-called topless days at Hampton Beach and Weirs Beach last August promised scores of protesters would be baring their breasts to make their point, but both were poorly attended with only a handful showing up.

However, two women at a Gilford beach were arrested for going topless, but won their day in court when the judge ruled it wasn't illegal, according to current law.

New Hampshire tourism officials are afraid such behavior could harm the state's family friendly destination status in the summer months when merchants depend on out-of-state dollars to make a living.

Right now there is no state bill prohibiting women going topless, but Laconia does have one, principally to cut down on the longtime practice of women flashing their breasts during Bike Week in June.

Interestingly, the bill also would make exposing one's anus a crime.

HB 1525 does, however, allow the exposure of breasts during breastfeeding.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. and several "Free the Nipple" activists are expected to be in attendance, hopefully fully clothed.

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