The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled February 15, 2019 that a Fort Collins, Colorado city ordinance prohibiting women from baring their breasts in public and punishes them for doing so while putting no similar restrictions on men violates the U.S. Constitution.
Two female plaintiffs and an unincorporated group called “Free the Nipple” sued Ft. Collins over an ordinance the city enacted in 2015 that made it a misdemeanor for a woman to bare her breasts in public for anything other than breastfeeding. Violations were punishable by a fine of up to $2,650 or up to 180 days in jail. The ordinance did not specify the same for men.
The City argued that “female toplessness could disrupt public order, lead to distracted driving, and endanger children,” and claimed prohibiting only female toplessness would protect children from public nudity, maintain public order, and promote traffic safety. The City of Fort Collins also said it feared “topless women parading in front of elementary schools, or swimming topless in the public pool.”
The plaintiffs said the ordinance violates the First Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution (the 14th Amendment is the “Equal protection Clause,”), and violated the Equal Rights Amendment to the Colorado Constitution, which states, “Equality o frights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Colorado or any of its political subdivisions on account of sex.”
A District Court had previously issued an injunction prohibiting the City from enforcing the ordinance.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs, ruling that the city’s fears that female breasts are disorderly and dangerous were derived from “negative stereotypes depicting women’s breasts, but not men’s breasts, as sex objects.” The Court wrote that the plaintiffs were irreparably injured by the town’s ordinance, that they were deprived of equal protection under the law, and pointed out that under the ordinance, “…all women in Fort Collins risk criminal sanctions for making a choice — to appear topless in public — that men may make scot-free.”
Read the entire decision here on Scribd.