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Wisconsin nudity legislation advances in Assembly Committee
Proposed anti-nudity laws AB 503 & 504 gain traction in legislative committee
MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, led by a 10-5 Republican majority, has voted to pass the controversial anti-nudity bills, AB 503 and 504 in a party-line vote in an executive session held on Thursday. The decision marks a critical juncture in the ongoing debate over public nudity and civil liberties in the state.
These measures, as previously reported by Planet Nude, specifically target events like the World Naked Bike Ride. AB 503 focuses on penalizing intentional exposure of genitals, while AB 504 aims to regulate children’s attendance at public events involving groups of nude adults. Critics argue that these bills infringe upon freedoms of expression and potentially criminalize naturist activities.
For more comprehensive information about the bills and their text, please see the Wisconsin anti-nudity bills’ action guide previously published on Planet Nude:
The executive session
Comment from the general public was not allowed in the executive session, which was announced with only the minimum required 24 hours notice. There was committee discussion allowed on each bill before the committee voted, in which a few democrats on the committee notably registered their opposition.
“I just don’t see how this bill actually betters the law or makes it more helpful to prosecutors,” Representative Tip McGuire said about AB 503, arguing that it puts more on the plate of prosecutors to prove intent. “I’m not sure if that’s the direction that we want to go, so I’m a ‘No’ on this.”
In advance of the session, one amendment was proposed to AB 504 by Representative Jodi Emerson, a Democrat. The amendment would change the use of the words “intimate parts” with “genitals” in the bills. Emerson spoke during discussion of the bill:
“‘Intimate Parts’, under the statute—and please [Legislative] Counsel, correct me if I’m wrong—but it means breast, buttocks, penis, groin, scrotum, vagina, or pubic mound. And so if we’re talking about a child attending an event where they would be exposed to intimate parts, which could mean the breast, it doesn’t say female breast versus male breast, so how many Badger games or Packer games is somebody at where there’s somebody shirtless there, even if it’s January or December? I think this is going to have unintended consequences, having those ‘Intimate Parts’ in there.”
Representative Cindy Duchow, the bill’s sponsor, responded:
“I think ‘Intimate Parts’ pretty much covers it. We have judicial discretion. I don’t see any DA charging some guy at a Badger Game for taking off his shirt. I mean, I think that would be frivolous and I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Before discussion concluded, Representative McGuire also spoke up in opposition to AB 504, and in support of the proposed amendment.
Both bills were passed and the amendment was rejected along a 10-5 party-line vote.
The immediate future for these bills in the Wisconsin State Legislature, as understood, includes a final vote in the Assembly (Lower House). While the Senate, where identical bills SB 477 and 478 are currently in committee, has had hearings on the measures, their progress is to be closely watched. Post-committee, these bills are expected to face Senate votes.
The Legislature is now scheduled for a recess, resuming in mid-January 2024. This break means that scheduling of bills for hearings in the new year is currently uncertain. Despite the recess, committee activities in the Senate may continue, necessitating close monitoring by concerned activists.
The current political landscape, dominated by a Republican majority in both the Assembly and the Senate, suggests a likelihood of party-line voting influencing the fate of these bills. If they pass in both houses, they will advance to the Governor, a Democrat, for approval or veto.
This dynamic sets the stage for potential political contention, considering the divided government in Wisconsin.
Its all politics
The committee’s decision, though anticipated, sparks a renewed outcry from activists and civil liberties advocates. There was some optimism after a recent public hearing which saw public testimony that was overwhelmingly opposed to the legislation, however, given the political makeup of the current Wisconsin legislature, a party line vote was not unexpected.
In today’s political climate, rigid party adherence often overshadows broader considerations. Despite valid concerns about the bills’ potential unconstitutionality—concerns that could lead to protracted and expensive legal challenges—the prevailing cynicism suggests this is typical of current political machinations.
The ultimate goal appears to be placing the Governor in a politically precarious position, compelling him to veto legislation that they can hopefully later use against him with their own political constituents, painting the Democrat as voting against ‘protecting the children.’ In this intricate political dance, the Governor’s response can be expected to be equally shaped by political calculus and the prevailing partisan winds.
The last line of defense against these controversial bills may very well end up being Governor Tony Evers. Although Evers has expressed skepticism about the necessity of such legislation, he has not explicitly committed to vetoing the bills publicly. Given the current political climate, his veto is crucial to prevent these measures from becoming law.
A recent interaction with a local reader of Planet Nude revealed insights from State Senator Kelda Roys, a strong opponent of the bills. She emphasized the importance of Governor Evers’s action in this matter, “I also encourage you to contact Governor Evers to urge him to veto these bills, since there is a likelihood that the GOP majority will push these bills to further political division and culture wars.”
Contacting Governor Evers to urge a veto is a crucial step in opposing these bills. However, with the likelihood that the legislation won’t face a vote until the new year, immediate action towards the Governor may not be necessary at this moment. Instead, joining forces with the Naturist Action Committee (NAC) in the interim period is advised. NAC is actively coordinating a strategic response in Wisconsin, seeking support from both state residents and visitors who have contributed to the local naturist venues. To stay informed and actively participate, sign up for NAC’s mailing list for updates and advisories, and keep an eye on Planet Nude for selected NAC-related alerts and articles. This moment calls for solidarity and strategic action to protect what matters most, echoing our resolve to #KeepBodiesFree. 🪐
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