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Woman Promotes the Right to Go Topless

An attorney crusades to change the law because it treats male and female sunbathers differently. A ruling in a Megan's Law case adds urgency.

January 22, 2005|Robert Salladay | Times Staff Writer

For its part, the state attorney general's office said Megan's Law would apply only if the woman has "lewd intent" -- and topless sunbathing is not normally considered lewd. In addition, they said, a misdemeanor conviction for indecent exposure requires only registration under Megan's Law, not public disclosure on the new government websites.

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.

The legislation probably faces a fight. Lawmakers in California have been eager to expand Megan's Law, not carve out exemptions.

Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, called it a "loopy idea" at a time when California needs to strengthen laws against public nudity.

"We already have too many sexual assaults in society. This will fuel that fire, and if the women don't understand, that's because they don't think like a man," Thomasson said.

But Johnsson countered the notion that "if you allow topless sunbathing on state beaches ... civilization will collapse. I tried to show that we have faced these same fears, like when we gave women the right to vote and enter the armed forces, and we have survived."

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