The seal of the state of Virginia has an image of the Roman god Virtus wearing a gown that exposes one breast. While the state legislature was debating whether to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, ERA supporter and performance artist Michelle Renay Sutherland attended a rally where she was dressed as Virtus and recreated the image shown on the seal, thus also exposing one breast. The difference was of course that the figure on the seal was presumed to be that of a man so his breast exposure was considered acceptable. The breast was emphasized so much in the figure that at first I thought that Virtus was a woman, which is possible, and someone who is a classicist can enlighten me. But the sight of a female breast sent the authorities into a tizzy and they arrested Sutherland.
— 🔥Adam Eidinger 🌊 (@aeidinger) February 19, 2019
That was bad enough but the judge then ordered Sutherland to be held without bail pending trial on March 21, a gross abuse of his discretion. Such a move is usually reserved for serious offenses or where the accused is a flight risk or a danger to others. Holding someone over this issue is not only excessive, lawyers argue that what she was doing was actually protected political speech and should not be punished at all
Kevin Martingayle, a lawyer in Virginia Beach and past president of the Virginia State Bar, said holding Sutherland without bond is unusual.
“What the woman did in reenacting the flag/seal is classic political speech entitled to the highest free speech protection known to law,” he said by email. “She should win and the denial of bond seems to be totally inappropriate. I am very surprised to see that done in a case in which she’d be unlikely to get jail time even if convicted.”
The puritanical attitudes of some people are quite astounding.