Topless bill heads toward House floor

Posted February 20, 2013

— The House Rules Committee gave unanimous approval Wednesday to House Bill 34, the measure that would officially classify women's nipples as indecent under North Carolina law.

The measure is expected on the House floor Thursday.

Sponsor Rep. Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, told the committee the current indecency law is "hazy" because it doesn't specify women's breasts as "private parts."

A state Supreme Court ruling from 1998 implied that breasts should be included under the definition of private parts, but the clarification was never entered into statute.

"It clarifies the indecent exposure law," she said. "It does not make a new law. It does not amend the law. It makes no new penalties in the law." 

Co-sponsor Rep Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, said Asheville's city council sought to enact an ordinance that would stop the "Go Topless" event after its second annual occurrence, but was warned against it by the city's attorney because of the ambiguity of state law.  

""That's why we're clarifying the law – to provide them with the relief they need," he explained.

"I think knowledge is power," Brown added. "It provides certainty to communities."

Topless ban bill in committee House to vote on whether bare breasts are indecent

The bill was sent back to committee because of some members' concerns that it might put topless women at risk of being labeled sex offenders.

But staff attorney Hal Pell said that would happen only if the conduct was explicitly sexual and involved a minor, as is the case under current indecency law.

"Your run of the mill – someone that's just topless, walking down the street? No," Pell said.  

Pell said the misdemeanor provision wouldn't be easy to trigger accidentally, either.

"It has to be willful exposure," he said. "Wardrobe malfunctions don't count."

The law makes exceptions for breastfeeding and adult clubs that are permitted by local ordinance. 

Amid the jokes flying around the committee table was one fact that came as news to a lot of lawmakers. 

"Currently, mooning is legal in North Carolina," Pell told them. "However, other private parts must be covered." 

"Suppose they move from a breast exposure to a mooning festival," said Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham. 

"If that was to happen, it would probably indeed happen in Asheville," replied Moffitt, "and I would be prepared to address that with a separate piece of legislation if it does become disruptive to our community." 

Asked if he wanted to add a "mooning" amendment to the current bill, Moffitt said, "Not right now."

"I guess you'll address that one on the back end," Hall joked.


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  • carolinafan Feb 21, 2013

    This just in...the Possum Drop bill passed the senate and is on its way to the governor. Oh, thank goodness, another piece of important legislation...lowering a terrifyied wildlife animal in a cage for entertainment! Thanks North Carolina for making this state look like a bunch of HICKS!!!

  • carolinafan Feb 21, 2013

    I am ashamed of North Carolina for even worrying about amending a bill for this reason. Another important bill they passed...a bill to allow the LIVE Possum Drop in Brasstown, NC...REALLY!!! Don't they have more important bills to be working on and passing? Why does anyone need a live wildlife animal to drop to bring in their New Year's Eve celebration...what a bunch of hicks! I know it is a possum but it isn't right to treat any animal this way for someone's enjoyment. I wonder what kind of bill they will come up with next. How about a spay/neuter law if you want to pass something for animals instead of a law that will terrify a possum. It is just another useless law!!!

  • The original American Feb 21, 2013

    Let's say it is legal for women (16 and older?) to go topless. From what I have seen in spandex, etc., I don't think that this would be a beautiful thing. I think that the ones that did go topless are the ones most people would rather not witness.

  • NoRespect Feb 21, 2013

    The NC GOP wants to step back in time... What a surprise! Next thing you know, we'll be required to wear those puritan hats!

  • paul2345 Feb 21, 2013

    Equality demands that mens nips (can't use the full word because of the wral software censors on a story about the same?) be included on this ridiculous 'clarification'. And breastfeeding is exempted -- now, wait, are you telling me that you are already making exceptions. Not very clear to me what is obscene about a breast (female or male). I don't see any reference to it being a bad thing in the bible. I don't see it being sexualized, except by the puritans. Yet more oppressive republican regulation. Tell me, when will it stop? When will they stop imposing their nanny state upon the rest of us?

  • denisdh Feb 21, 2013

    I thought "representatives" should represent what the population wants. I have yet to find anyone male or female that thought this was worthy legislation. Next will they vote to clothe statues and art. Very sad.

  • sunshine1040 Feb 21, 2013

    So I will not be able to change my baby girls shirt in public when something is spilled on it or we are at a public event and the weather is getting to warm for the clothing we started out but her brother, dad male uncles and cousins can go topless. I call that discriminations

  • Grand Union Feb 21, 2013

    Is this the smaller Gov,. the GOP promised? or is it just pleasing smaller minds?

  • iwishihadariver Feb 21, 2013

    I know topless women walking the streets is such a big problem in NC (eye roll) but this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. We have so many issues that need to be dealt with and this is what they choose to produce bills on? I thought Republicans were suppose to be all about less government but I guess I was so very wrong.

  • Grand Union Feb 21, 2013

    wait, what century is this?????

    "So, the Republicans had to waste time to go back and fix a bill that was poorly written by whom??"

    Who says they had to do anything? I don't recall this being an issue during the election.....