Colorado, the first state in the country to approve marijuana for recreational use, has rejected the idea of women going topless and refused to legalize the baring of breasts in public.
A movement in Fort Collins, Colorado, to allow women to go topless in public was swamped with a wave of disapproval during Tuesday’s city council meeting that ended with approval for only minimal changes to the town’s nudity laws.
The group of Free the Nipple activists, who initially proposed the ordinance, argued women’s inability to go topless in public was a violation of their equal rights and amounted to discrimination against women. They argued allowing women to go topless in public, like men, would create true equality.
More conservative opinions prevailed, however, with many citizens arguing allowing women to go topless would ruin the town’s reputation and damage the family-orientated community. Some residents said they would avoid the city’s downtown shopping area if the ordinance allowing women to go topless passed, whereas others threatened to move away entirely.
Conservative city residents said they didn’t want their town to turn into a topless bar.
The city council must now decide between two competing proposals. The first would make only minor changes to the nudity law such as allowing women to breastfeed in public and go nude in expected places like locker rooms, along with exceptions for medical emergencies. The other bill would allow everyone, regardless of sex, to go completely topless in the city.
City Councilman and former Fort Collins Mayor Ray Martinez told the Denver Post he was against the nudity ordinance update and women going topless in public.
“We’re a family-oriented community, and I’ve got hundreds of e-mails in favor of opposing it. I have not received one e-mail for the public nudity ordinance.”
The idea for the proposed nudity ordinance allowing women to go topless first started with 24-year-old activist Brittiany Hoagland, who began the discussion with her city council back in February. In August, as the summer heat beat down, Hoagland donned a bikini and stood on a busy street corner with a sign across her chest that read, “Illegal to remove.”
She and her dozen or so supporters Tuesday night said the decision to keep women from going topless, like men, was sexist and a matter of gender equality. She told the city council that keeping women from baring their breasts in public continued the objectification and sexualization of women. They compared the Free the Nipple fight to separate but equal and religious freedom.
An online survey by the city showed almost 61 percent of residents opposed the nudity update allowing women to go topless, while 36 percent supported allowing women to bare their breasts, according to USA Today.
Most states don’t ban women going topless, but some cities and municipalities have passed anti-nudity laws that prohibit women from baring their chests in public.
New York women have been able to go topless since 1996 after they won a Supreme Court battle. Other topless cities include Asheville, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colorado; and Columbus, Ohio. For a complete list of America’s most topless cities, check out gotopless.org
Famously liberal San Francisco banned nudity, including toplessness, except for parades and political protests, in 2013. A small group of nudists who call themselves body freedom activists have been fighting the decision ever since it took effect.
The group recently won an important federal court case where a judge decided the city’s nudity ban was overly vague and awarded the activists $20,000 in legal fees.
Meanwhile, the nudity ban in Fort Collins, Colorado, is due to be revisited in November when council members will have to decide between the competing proposals.