FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4/AP) – The discussion on whether or not to allow women to go topless in public took center stage at Fort Collins City Hall Tuesday night.
Concerns were raised months ago by some residents who claimed the city’s current indecency ordinance on public nudity discriminates against women. According to the ordinance, a woman over the age of 10 who displays her breast “below the top of the nipple” faces a $250 fine. The ordinance does not prohibit men from going shirtless.
Resident Brittiany Hoagland spearheaded a movement calling itself Go Topless Fort Collins.
“We want to have topless equality in Fort Collins, so this way we can let women have … and the LGBTQIA community have the autonomy that men have any other day,” Hoagland said.
Council members heard those concerns, and turned to the public for direction.
“We put out a poll for residents here in the city of Fort Collins and we got more than 8,000 responses,” city spokesman David Young said. “And that poll indicated a 60-40 split. So 60 percent of people were in support of keeping the ordinance (and) prohibiting toplessness.”
That result that came to life in a city council meeting on Tuesday. In several hours of public comment the majority of people who spoke opposed changing the ordinance. Some warned of increased sexual assaults, even car accidents, if women were allowed to display their breasts.
“Allowing women to dress or undress the same as men doesn’t create equality,” said resident Katie Peters in the meeting.
Another resident voicing a common opinion in the room said that college women in Fort Collins, home of Colorado State University, could be damaged by having a topless photo taken and posted online.
“We have the freedom to go topless at home,” David Harris said.
Council members eventually voted against making major changes.
Councilman Ray Martinez told the Associated Press allowing female toplessness “just doesn’t seem right.”
“People are going to say, we go to Fort Collins and run around topless. And I don’t want that,” he said.
Some council members applauded Hoagland for bringing light to the issue and said they will amend the ordinance some and allow for an exception for women who are breastfeeding.
Fort Collins officials say they’re not sure the last time any woman was charged with indecency for displaying her breasts in public.
Other cities, including Denver and Boulder, have removed all gender-specific language from indecency codes. The city of Chicago is facing a federal lawsuit from a woman challenging as discriminatory her $150 fine for participating in a 2014 “Go Topless Day” protest near Lake Michigan.
Indecency codes are largely local, with very few states having laws on the books banning female breast exposure.
Fort Collins gained national attention in 1989 when Debbie Duz Donuts, a doughnut shop with topless waitresses, opened for business. Protesters picketed the shop, which closed after several months.
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