‘Yoga pants should be illegal in public’: Montana legislator fails to ban camel-toe-causing clothes

Reuters / Lucas Jackson
The right to bare arms, legs and possibly even nipples has lived to die another day in Montana. An an anti-yoga pants state lawmaker introduced a bill meant to strengthen indecent exposure laws, but it now lies limp on the committee table.

After a group of naked bike riders cycling through the streets of Missoula shocked his senses in August, Republican state Rep. David Moore decided to take out his frustrations ‒ sexual or otherwise ‒ on immodesty: He introduced a bill that would outlaw distracting duds.

The offending incident was an officially permitted "Bare as You Dare" bike ride, where participants were encouraged to strip off as many articles of clothing as they saw fit. The organizer, Nita Maddux, told KECI that the event was about acceptance and honesty.

Indecent exposure in Montana occurs when a person “knowingly or purposely exposes the person's genitals” to “cause affront or alarm” with the intent of abusing, humiliating, harassing or degrading another or to “arouse or gratify the person's own sexual response or desire or the sexual response or desire of any person.”

Moore’s proposal, House Bill 365, took things just a bit further, seeking to revise the law to cover “indecent exposure of a person’s private parts or simulated private parts in a public place in such a way that a reasonable person would be offended or alarmed.”

Of course, the bill does not define “a reasonable person.” It does, however, describe "indecency" in-depth: “the person’s genitals, pubic hair, or anus or… the areola or nipple of the person’s breast with anything less than a fully opaque covering.”

Things get sticky, however, where the indecency definition encompasses “any device, costume, or covering that gives the appearance of or simulates” the areas mentioned above.

It is that vague description, critics contend, that would ban things like yoga pants. And… other things that might offend or cause naughty thoughts to pop into a reasonable teenage boy’s mind.

Comparing the bill to a “fatwa against yoga pants,” Hrafnkell Haraldsson in Politics USA added “[T]he idea of a ‘reasonable’ person as defined by a Republican these days is not at all problematic, oh no…”

“[I]t’s not that he’s just trying to ban nekkid bikers, but that he doesn’t want to see even the outline of any of your body parts, specifically, those parts identified as ‘naughty bits’ by the Puritans."

Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri wondered how Moore and his co-author, retired professor Walt Hill, could reconcile their legislation with the outcry against Muslim practices requiring women to be covered from head to toe.

“Given how much American state lawmakers inveigh against the tiniest hint of Sharia law, you would think they would see the inconsistency,” she wrote. “But it is so much easier to spot the mote in your neighbor’s eye when you are not distracted by the yoga pants in your own.”

Moore himself told the Associated Press that tight-fitting beige clothing could be considered illegal under HB 365.

“Yoga pants should be illegal in public anyway,” Moore said after a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill Tuesday.

Moore’s delicate sensibilities apparently do not extend to breastfeeding, which was specifically allowed in the proposal. Score one for the ladies who would no longer be allowed to wear their comfy pants while dealing with an infant attached to their mammaries.

When asked how police might enforce a law with the proposed penalty of a fine up to $500, imprisonment of up to six months, or both, the Republican lawmaker replied, “I don’t have a crystal ball.”

He told AP that he’d trust law enforcement officials to use their discretion, harkening back to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s attempt to define obscenity as “I know it when I see it.”

Montana’s House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to table the proposal on Wednesday.

No word about whether Moore’s panties are in a twist after the committee killed the bill. Or if those T-shirts of a woman’s body in a bikini would be considered “simulated private parts.”