ASHEVILLE — Asheville’s Chamber of Commerce wants North Carolina lawmakers to revisit the issue of topless women in the downtown area in response to a series of protests.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that Chamber President Kit Cramer said Wednesday she doesn’t care who fixes the problem, as long as it gets done. She has asked Rules Committee chairman Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Buncombe, to handle the matter.
“It is past time for it to have been dealt with, frankly,” Cramer said. “It is irritating that we have to address it at all, but apparently we do.”
Cramer said downtown businesses have complained about the topless protests, as well as about trash, graffiti and cigarette butts.
James Leipold, a local business owner, said he was surprised the Chamber of Commerce is wading into a public policy issue. His wife, he said, believes she has a right to going topless.
“It made me wonder why the chamber is actively involved in limiting rights on a constitutional issue,” he said. “(Cramer) brought it up in the context of dog poop on the sidewalks and homeless people (panhandling), which was surprising to me.”
Asheville Rep. Tim Moffitt wrote a bill last year that would send women to prison for going topless in public. The bill would have expanded North Carolina’s indecent exposure law’s definition of “private parts” to explicitly include the nipple. Exposure determined to be for sexual gratification would be a felony, punishable by six months in prison.
Last February, the bill was sent back to a committee. At the time, Moffitt said he was confident the measure would come up for a vote, but it never did.
There have been three rallies dating back to 2011. Organizer Jeff Johnson of Huntsville, Ala., said his group thinks laws and social stigmas against women being topless in public are unfair.