Massachusetts Bill Would Allow Women To Go Topless In Public

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Should women be allowed to go topless in public in Massachusetts?

One bill (HD.4316) looks to make that change.

Fitchburg resident and political activist Jacquelyn Wehtje filed a bill by petition that would remove “female breasts” from the section of Massachusetts General Laws that defines what constitutes Open and Gross Lewdness and Lascivious Behavior in the state. 

Although state representative Michael Kushmerek (D-Fitchburg) filed the bill on Wehtje’s behalf, neither he nor any state legislator is sponsoring it.

Here is the exact text of the proposal:


Whereas gender discrimination is wrong,

and whereas gender itself is increasingly fluid and nonbinary,

and whereas according to legal experts like Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson a woman cannot even be defined,

and whereas the female body should not be stigmatized or fetishized,

therefore MGL chapter 272 section 16 shall be amended to remove the words “female breasts”,

and equality of chest bearing shall be the new law in Massachusetts.


Currently, exposure of female breasts in certain circumstances constitutes Open and Gross Lewdness and Lascivious Behavior in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, according to Chapter 272 Section 16 of the state’s general laws; it carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

Only one municipality in Massachusetts allows women to legally be topless in public:  Nantucket. The town’s voters approved the measure at Town Meeting in May 2022. However, that rule is limited to beaches.

Massachusetts is the only state in the country where citizens have an explicit constitutional right to file bills directly in the state legislature, as the State Library of Massachusetts points out. The idea comes from English common law and first appeared in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties in 1641, and once again in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.

The 1641 rule says (with period spelling):  “Every man whether Inhabitant or fforreiner, free or not free shall have libertie to come to any publique Court, Councel, or Towne meeting, and either by speech or writeing to move any lawfull, seasonable, and materiall question, or to present any necessary motion, complaint, petition, Bill or information, whereof that meeting hath proper cognizance, so it be done in convenient time, due order, and respective manner.”

The current rendition from the 1780 state constitution reads:  “The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.”

No action has been taken on this bill yet.


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