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Topless protesters slap Missouri city with lawsuit over ‘decency’ ordinance criminalizing breastfeeding women

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A lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of two women challenges an indecent exposure ordinance in Springfield, Missouri that they say unfairly targets breastfeeding women.

The ordinance has been stirring controversy, and according to the ACLU’s lawsuit, the way it’s worded could render breastfeeding children over 1 year old illegal. Along with criminalizing the showing of female breasts, the ordinance also forbade “the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state” — language that was later removed.

The ACLU brought the suit on behalf of the local Free the Nipple chapter, a group that advocates for women’s equality.

“If I cause affront or alarm, I could get ticketed,” Jessica Lawson told the Springfield News-Leader. “I try to avoid all criminal activity. I definitely feel that the law needs to be fixed.”

The lawsuit says the ordinance violates women’s rights to free expression and relegates them to “inferior legal status.”

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Even the city’s own mayor, Bob Stephens, believes the ordinance violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal treatment under the law.

“I think my reaction was, ‘Oh boy, we’re going to have to spend more time on a goofy ordinance, and a goofy issue that will go away when the weather turns cold,’ ” Stephens said to KSPR. “I guarantee you in February, nobody will be parading on the square without their shirt on. We’re spending way too much time on it. Now, because of a lawsuit, we’re going to be spending way too much of taxpayer money on it, probably to be told we were wrong in passing the ordinance to start with.”

Lawson, who is one of two plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the law unfairly targets women. Aside from the lawsuit, activists held a bare-chested protest — with nipples covered to stay in compliance with the law —  in response.

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“We definitely feel like we accomplished our goal with the first protest,” Lawson said. “It was to draw attention to the gender-biased law.”

The ordinance currently renders illegal exposure of “the female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola, for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification or which is likely to cause affront or alarm,” according to the ACLU.

Exceptions include, “performances of adult entertainment” and “exposure of the female breast necessarily incident to breast-feeding an infant.”

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The ACLU notes that “infant” usually means children 12 months and younger.

As of yet, the city hasn’t cited anyone. So Springfield City Attorney Dan Wichmer told the Associated Press he doesn’t believe the lawsuit has any standing. But city officials don’t seem surprised by it.

“Challenges to indecent exposure laws under the disguise of First and 14th amendment protections have repeatedly been rejected by the courts,” City Councilman Justin Burnett, who initially proposed the ordinance, told the AP. “Repealing this law would subject families to public nudity, jeopardize our local economy and is blatantly irresponsible.”

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But Stephens said it was a mistake to pass a law dictating the amount of skin women can show in public while ignoring men, saying, “I think that’s probably a violation of the 14th Amendment, which is equal treatment under the law.”


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2020 Election

Here’s how Trump hopes to recreate his 2016 presidential win — and how Democrats can send him packing

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Writing for CNN on Saturday, election forecaster Harry Enten explained how President Donald Trump's recent, racist behavior lies in his desire to recreate the same electoral conditions that gave him a victory in 2016 in the presidential election next year.

"The Trump strategy is pretty simple: 1. Drive up the unfavorable ratings of his Democratic rival as he did in 2016 in order to compensate for his own low ratings. 2. Bank on an electoral college/popular vote split as he did in 2016. 3. Use a campaign of racial resentment to drive up turnout even more among groups favorable toward the President," wrote Enten. As he noted, Democrats have excellent odds to flip back Michigan and Pennsylvania, but they will have to work harder to win back any of the other states Trump flipped from the 2012 Obama camp — in particular Wisconsin, which was the closest state after those two.

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American, Italian and Russian blast off for ISS

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US, Italian and Russian astronauts blasted into space Saturday, headed for the International Space Station, in a launch coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA's Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency set off on a six-hour journey to the orbiting science lab from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1628 GMT.

A NASA TV commentator hailed a "textbook launch" minutes after blastoff in "sweltering" weather in Baikonur, where daytime temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

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Conservative suggests Trump’s racist rhetoric will incite worse than ‘send her back’ chants: ‘One shudders to wonder’

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In a column for the Washington Post, conservative Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Kathleen Parker said the refusal by Republican lawmakers and the evangelical community to condemn Donald Trump's racist rhetoric is paving the way for something far worse than mere "send her back" chants.

Under a headline that bluntly states, "Those who don’t condemn Trump’s racism are complicit in his bigotry," Parker gets right to her opinion of the president, writing, "Going out on a limb here: President Trump is a racist. And a sexist. And a xenophobic nationalist. Among other things. Not to name call or anything."

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