- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

LACONIA, N.H. (AP) - A judge has dismissed a case against two women ticketed for going topless at a town beach, a case that led to a Facebook spat among legislators about a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for women to expose their nipples in public.

Heidi Lilley and Barbara MacKinnon are associated with the rise of the national “Free the Nipple” movement. Police said they violated an ordinance in September in Gilford that prohibits women from going topless. The women said their constitutional rights were violated.

A judge said there’s no state law, criminal code or statute that prohibits the exposure of the female breast in public, so the town lacked authority for a criminal prosecution.

Judge James Carroll, in a ruling released Tuesday, also found that the women’s exposure was not symbolic expression, as protected by the First Amendment. He didn’t find that the prohibition violated any constitutionally protected right.

After Republican legislators sponsored their bill, Democratic Rep. Amanda Bouldin spoke out about it on Facebook in December. In response, Republican Rep. Josh Moore suggested that if women want to expose their breasts publicly, they should have no problem with men wanting to “stare at it and grab it.” Republican Rep. Al Baldasaro told Bouldin that her nipple was “the last one” he would want to see.

Moore has said his comments were taken out of context and misrepresented. Baldasero didn’t back away from his comments.

The bill is scheduled for a committee hearing on Feb. 29. It includes an exemption for breastfeeding.

At the start of the legislative session last month, Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper told the 400-member body that they needed to behave themselves, saying the eyes of the nation were on New Hampshire and its leadoff presidential primary.

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