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N.H. Defends Laconia Law Barring Female Nudity In U.S. Supreme Court Appeal

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New Hampshire has filed a response with the U.S. Supreme Court in the so-called “Free the Nipple” case of three women arrested for going topless at Weirs Beach in 2016.

The high court had asked to hear from the state, which an attorney for the women appealing says shows at least one justice may be interested in the issue.

The women say the Laconia ordinance under which they were convicted is unconstitutional and discriminates based on gender.

Their lawyers also argue there's disagreement on the issue among other appeals courts – meaning the Supreme Court should weigh in.

In its response, New Hampshire argues there's no disagreement – and that Laconia’s rule is no different than other “decency-based” laws.

The state says the ordinance is a justified way to protect social norms by barring the public exposure of “erogenous body parts,” including genitalia and female breasts. 

The women appealing the case will now have two weeks to file their own response before the issue goes up for review by the U.S. Supreme Court’s justices.

They could decide how to proceed as early as January. Four of the nine justices would have to vote on whether to hear the case.

An attorney for the women who are appealing says it can often take at least two rounds of consideration for the court to accept a case and schedule oral arguments.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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