Our newly elected governor and state legislature is hard at work. But are they solving our budget crisis, debating taxes, education, or alternative energy sources to power our state… Not entirely.
House Bill 34, filed last Thursday, would make it illegal for women to bare their breasts in public anywhere in North Carolina. The bill was filed by two Republican representatives: Rep. Rayne Brown and Rep. Tim Moffitt. My first question for Representatives Brown and Moffit is: how does your proposed breast bill square with your distaste for so called “big government”? Local communities all across our great state should be permitted to set their own standards when it comes to regulating public decency and indecency.
This bill sets a dangerous precedent by allowing the state to usurp local authority relating to community standards from our Town Councils and Boards of Aldermen, and instead impose the heavy hand of central government. Community standards should be set by communities themselves.
My second question for these representatives is: why would you start your terms by tabling legislation that is an affront to the First Amendment? Representatives Brown and Moffit claim to zealously advocate for the US Constitution, and yet this bill creates a slippery slope because it could easily be interpreted in an overly broad manner by police, prosecutors, or others who are tasked with enforcement.
There is a wide range of artistic expression and creative work that traditionally may include glimpses of the human form, including the female breast. For example, North Carolina should be proud of our long legacy of nurturing the performing arts, including dance, dramatic arts, and filmmaking. If a dramatic work or dance is being performed in “public” at an outdoor festival, must the local officials arrest a performer whose costume allows a glimpse of breasts. If a film or TV production is being shot by a Wilmington studio in a public location, will this law be rigidly applied? If an exception is made for “artistic” productions, do our Republican representatives get to decide arbitrarily what should be considered “artistic” in their eyes? Such a broadly worded bill may in practice lead down the slippery slope of unconstitutional censorship under the first amendment.
Finally, my last question for these representatives is: don’t you have anything better to do with your time and your legislative power? You were elected by your constituency to solve real problems, and there is no shortage of genuine crises facing our state. What the people expect is for you to reach across the aisle and make genuine progress in addressing our most difficult issues in a bipartisan manner.
As Robert Paul Smith, author of “The Tender Trap” famously said: “B is for Breasts, of which ladies have two; Once prized for their function but now for the view.”