“I Support Breast Equality”
Woman Promotes the Right to Go Topless (Los Angeles Times)
As a Ventura County public defender, Liana Johnsson has handled many life-changing cases, but her biggest public crusade these days has been going topless.
For months, Johnsson has been fighting to allow topless women at California beaches and parks, and now the issue has made its way to the Capitol.
A group of lawyers, at Johnsson’s request, has asked the Legislature to make topless sunbathing legal, saying the ban is the last criminal sanction that treats women differently than men.
The new movement has urgency: Because of a December court ruling, Johnsson and other attorneys contend, women convicted of indecent exposure could find themselves listed as sex offenders under Megan’s Law, alongside rapists and child molesters.
“At some point, men’s breasts became liberated and women’s didn’t,” Johnsson said Friday. “This is the only thing left that men are legally allowed to do and, for women, they have to register as a sex offender. The real issue is there should be equal protection under the law.”
The office of state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said women should not be concerned about being identified as sex offenders, given that California law considers topless sunbathing to be indecent but not lewd. Lawmakers may soon be tackling the issue to remove any chance of misinterpretation by local prosecutors.
I’ll let the legal experts tackle the substance of this issue. Instead, I’ll simply note that the Times fumbles the discussion of its political implications:
The office of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to comment on the possible legislation, and it was unclear if the governor would rank this effort as one of the “silly” bills he says the Legislature often dreams up. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” spokeswoman Margita Thompson said in an e-mail when asked to comment.
After publishing a controversial late-breaking report on Schwarzenegger’s improper conduct toward women, you can’t tell me that “‘silly’ bills” is the best that the Times can do. Beyond this obvious aspect, the governor can’t afford to be associated in any way to seemingly salacious issues. If, in fact, he has higher political ambitions — ones that may require him to attract or at least contain the social conservatives — then he’ll need to make sure that his public record reflects an abandonment of his wild Hollywood days. That means steering entirely clear of such causes as “breast equality,” however well-intentioned.