Bare breasts are not free speech but also not illegal - Gilford protester not surprised at ruling


LACONIA – Female breasts on view at local beaches are not illegal yet the right to bare them is not constitutionally protected, said Judge Jim Carroll in a two-page ruling issued Friday that upheld his previous order in the case of two women who were cited for going topless last year at Gilford Beach.
In his ruling, Carroll upheld his original decision regarding criminality by reiterating that since nothing in the state criminal code prohibits women from exposing their nipples in public, the Gilford town ordinance is unenforceable from a legal point of view.
The town had challenged his previous ruling to dismiss case against Heidi Lilley of Gilford and Barbara MacKinnon after they were both given violations by police for appearing topless at the beach on Sept. 6. saying he "misapprehended" a provision in state law regarding regulations made by local authorities.
Carroll took notice of the fact that the legislature recently decided not to criminalize the exposure of the female nipple after a bill introduced by three Lakes Region state representatives failed to get the support it needed to pass.
"The Court had previously found that RSA 645:1 or Indecent Exposure and Lewdness does not prohibit the public display of the female nipple or breast," he wrote. "With the most recent legislative action, the subject statute remains intact."
He said the presumption in state law is that it "flows from the principle that municipal legislation is invalid if it is repugnant to, or inconsistent with, state law." State law, he said, preempts local law if there is an actual conflict between the two.
Gilford town officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
In the same ruling, Carroll also said Lilley and MacKinnon's actions that day were not constitutionally protected as free speech under the First Amendment. They had also filed a motion to reconsider his previous order on constitutional grounds.
"I'm not surprised," said Lilley Friday, adding that there really wasn't anything else to say.

Migrants keep Belknap growing


LACONIA — Belknap County was among six of the 10 counties in the state where the population has increased between 2010 and 2015, according to estimates released this week by the United States Census Bureau.

Since 2010 the population of Belknap County has grown by 549 people, from 60,092 to 60,644, or 0.9 percent. Migrants, 396 from foreign countries and 556 from other counties or states – 952 altogether – accounted for the increase as the 3,357 deaths outnumbered the 2,873 births by 484. The net increase of 549 includes a "residual," or change in population that cannot be attributed to any specific demographic component.

The population of the state grew from 1,316,466 to 1,330,608, or by 1.1 percent. At 0.9 percent, the pace of growth in Belknap County placed fifth among the 10 counties, behind Strafford County at 3.0 percent, Rockingham County at 2.2 percent, Hillsborough County at 1.5 percent and Merrimack County at 1.1 percent.
But, from 2014 to 2015 the population of Belknap County increased 0.4 percent, keeping pace with Merrimack and Rockingham counties while trailing Strafford County, the fastest growing county in the state at 0.5 percent.

Shaker apologizes after students not recognized


BELMONT — Letters of apology are being sent to the families of three Belmont High School students who were not properly recognized for their participation in this past season's unified basketball team.

At least one of the three received a certificate from the coach with a different student's name crossed out and his written in with a felt-tipped marker.

Superintendent Maria Dreyer said Friday this was an unfortunate oversight made by the unified team coaches. She said she and the high school administrators first learned of it Friday morning when she got a phone call from one of the students' mother.

According to Facebook posts and confirmed in part by Dreyer, the night of the annual sports awards banquet, the coaches for the unified team could not be there for personal reasons and the three students were inadvertently omitted from the awards ceremony.

To compensate for the omission, there was a smaller pizza party held for the students who participated in the unified team however the coach realized too late that he had forgotten to get the certificates for the unified players. She said the coach crossed out the name of a student who wasn't there and filled in the name of the other student.

"We feel horrible, terrible," she said. "But we will make it right."

She said the administration is organizing an in-school basketball game that will include any of the student athletes, male and female, who want to play. She said the three athletes from the unified team will be playing and will get their own award ceremony following the game. Dreyer said she and Principal Dan Clary are working on a date and time for the game.

Dreyer said that the school district accepts responsibility for the error and remains committed to continuing with unified sports teams and encouraging all of the student athletes who participate in them.