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N.H. topless movement leader goes to trial in December

Union Leader Correspondent

October 13. 2015 8:31PM
Heidi Lilley attended the Free the Nipple event at Hampton Beach in August. (JASON SCHREIBER)

LACONIA — Heidi Lilley will get the trial she hoped for, and will argue, according to her lawyer, that her state and federal Constitutional rights have been violated.

Lilley, who is leading the state’s Free-the-Nipple movement, was in court Tuesday morning for her arraignment on a misdemeanor charge of toplessness at a Gilford beach on Sept. 6. Gilford police made the arrest because Lilley violated a town ordinance forbidding topless women at the town beach.

She spent no time in front of a judge, as her lawyer and a Gilford police representative met outside a Laconia District Court courtroom Tuesday morning. Lilley, 54, has been seeking to take any town or city laws prohibiting women going topless to court to get such laws ruled unconstitutional.

Gilford police agreed to a trial in accordance with the law, said Lt. Kris Kelley, the department’s public information officer.

“Going to trial was the next step in the legal process,” Kelley said. “It’s obvious that she wanted a trial on this charge, and that’s her right.”

Attorney Dan Hynes, who was representing Lilley, said at her trial on Dec. 15 he and Lilley will argue that her Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated, specifically her rights under the due process clause, which assure that all levels of government must operate within the law and provide fair procedures.

The Gilford ordinance against toplessness violates that right, Hynes said.

“Essentially, the law is making it a crime to be a woman, though the charge is not technically a crime,” he said.

Asked if she will win the case, Lilley said, “I don’t know, I hope so.”

On Monday, Lilley said she doubted police would take her to trial “over a $25 fine.”

Lilley and other members of the New Hampshire movement offended some people this summer by going without swimsuit tops at the beach. The people complaining said they and several children called the police to complain about the show of bare breasts, as the women were making the children and parents “uncomfortable.”

At the time, Lilley said the tickets were just what the movement was hoping for. She had gone topless on Weirs Beach on Sept. 5 in an attempt to challenge Laconia’s ordinance against toplessness, which was instituted about 20 years ago so police could arrest women who were baring breasts on Motorcycle Weekend.

The group planned to challenge Laconia’s law, which they believed was the only local law in the state prohibiting bare breasts in public. That move followed the group’s initial “statement of equality for the female breast” on Aug. 23 at Hampton Beach, when more than 50 topless women “made a statement for equality of the female breast,” Lilley said.

The movement, Lilley said, wants women to have the same rights as men when it comes to wearing no clothing on their upper bodies. She said the movement's goal is to desexualize the female breast.

Courts Gilford Laconia

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