N.C. House Bill 34, the bill proposed by Reps. Rayne Brown and Tim Moffitt, was inspired by the GoTopless protests in Asheville. The bill received national attention after being introduced recently by the NCGA House Judiciary Committee.
The goal of the bill is to make it illegal for women to expose any part of their nipple in public. The exact text of the bill explicitly defines indecent "private parts" as the "external organs of sex and of excretion, including the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast."
This bill is a direct violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This clause states that "no State shall … deny to any person … the equal protection of the laws." This amendment has been interpreted in the Supreme Court to prevent the government from passing laws that only apply to one group of citizens, such as racial minorities and women.
I'll state here for the record that I have no opinions either way about whether or not anyone should be able to show any part of their body. I, like others who have written about it, admit that, indeed, this bill seems a little silly.
However, the consequences for passing a law that violates the 14th Amendment could be severe. If it passes and is not challenged in the Supreme Court, we could be opening a Pandora's Box of discriminatory law-passing. Who will be singled out next? If, in this case, all the women of North Carolina face a punishment that men never will, who's to say that the NCGA won't punish the public expressions of religious or racial minorities?
We as citizens need to challenge and criticize this bill, lest we become the victims of the precedent it will set.
— Morgan Steele