A bill at the N.C. General Assembly criminalizing toplessness could spark a fight between women’s rights activists and lawmakers.
The proposal, filed last week, would make public exposure of the breast or nipple a class two misdemeanor, which can include jail time and or a fine up to $1,000.
GoTopless.org, a Nevada-based group that organizes national rallies for women’s rights, said the proposed bill would diminish gender equality.
“North Carolina is going backward,” said Nadine Gary, GoTopless.org president.
Due to the lack of a uniform federal public exposure law, offenses are determined by each state. N.C. law does not clarify whether women can be topless in public.
Controversy arose after a 2011 topless rally in Asheville, hosted by GoTopless, which drew thousands of participants.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, said the legislation would eliminate any confusion.
“There’s nothing salacious here,” she said. “I’m not trying to impose any kind of morality.”
Gary said topless events advocate for equal rights rather than just the right to be topless.