GILFORD — Toplessness by women at the town beach will not be legally challenged, said Town Administrator Scott Dunn said yesterday, but is still not going to be allowed.
Selectmen will not fight a ruling made by 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll regarding the legality of its ordinance banning female toplessness at the town beach, said Dunn.
He said the only place the town could have gone to appeal the ruling is to the New Hampshire Supreme Court and that it would have cost about $10,000 in legal fees to do so.
Dunn said that, at this point in time, selectmen are not changing the ordinance and that female toplessness will not be allowed at Gilford Beach. When asked how the town was going to enforce it, he declined to speculate.
The town of Gilford was brought into the Free the Nipple campaign on Labor Day in 2015 after a group of women sunbathed for the day at Weirs Beach in Laconia but left for Gilford Beach after Weirs Beach closed early to set up the fireworks display.
While there were no complaints from Laconia, once in Gilford, the women were met with immediate rebukes and the Gilford police were called.
Police cited two of the women, Heidi Lilley and Barbara McKinnon, with violating the town ordinance. The two challenged the citations, and Carroll determined that because there is no law banning female toplessness in the state criminal code, there could be no local ordinances that criminalize exposing female nipples in public. The town asked Carroll to reconsider his ruling, but he declined.
A bill sponsored by three Belknap County state representatives to ban female toplessness statewide was killed in a New Hampshire House subcommittee after its members learned that, as written, a second offense would be a felony and could require those convicted to register as sex offenders.
Free the Nipple is an equality movement based on a movie by the same name that wants women to have the same rights as men when it comes to toplessness.
The city of Laconia also has an ordinance that forbids female toplessness and theo encouragement or harassment of women into going topless that was enacted more as a safety measure for the annual Motorcycle Week.