CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is leaving in place the public nudity convictions of three women who removed their bathing suit tops on a New Hampshire beach as part of a global campaign advocating for the rights of women to go topless.
The justices declined Monday to review a state court decision that found no violation of the women’s constitutional rights.
Heidi Lilley, Kia Sinclair and Ginger Pierro are part of the Free the Nipple campaign, a global effort advocating for the rights of women to go topless. They were arrested in 2016 after removing their tops at a beach in Laconia and refusing to put them on when beachgoers complained. Pierro was doing yoga, while the two others were sunbathing.
Dan Hynes, who represented the women, said he was disappointed. They are considering their next option, he said, including filing for relief in federal court and asking the New Hampshire legislature “to make it clear that towns and cities lack the authority to create violations of law involving someone’s sex.”
“The government should not be allowed to create a crime that requires proof of someone’s sex as an element of the offense,” he said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that 100 years after being granted the right to vote, the City of Laconia has decided to keep women second class citizens, with permission of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.”
In a 3-2 ruling last year, New Hampshire’s highest court upheld the conviction of the three women, finding their constitutional rights were not violated.
The court decided that Laconia’s ordinance does not discriminate on the basis of gender or violate the women’s right to free speech. The Laconia law on indecent exposure bans sex and nudity in public but singles out women by prohibiting the “showing of female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple.”
New Hampshire is just one of several places around the country where topless bans have been litigated.
Supporters celebrated in February when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling blocking a Fort Collins, Colorado, law against women going topless in public.
The justices sided with activists who argued that the ban treated women and men differently.
A federal judge, meanwhile, ruled in October 2017 that a public indecency law in Missouri didn’t violate the state constitution by allowing men, but not women, to show their nipples. A court allowed a San Francisco public nudity ban to remain on the books in 2013.
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