Loading...

Maryland City’s Female Toplessness Ban Survives in Court Ruling … For Now

April 13, 2020 by Tom Ramstack

Ocean City, Maryland, can continue to enforce its ban on topless women at its popular beach, a federal judge ruled last week.

There’s a fundamental difference between topless women and topless men that is supported by case law and tradition, Judge James Bredar wrote in his ruling.

“The Court finds that protecting the public sensibilities from the public display of areas of the body traditionally viewed as erogenous zones — including female, but not male, breasts — is an important government objective,” Bredar wrote.

Five women who sued the city in 2018 said they should have the same right to toplessness as men.

They were motivated by an ordinance Ocean City officials passed in 2017 that banned public displays of specific body parts, namely male and female genitals and female breasts.

The dispute started when “Topfreedom” advocate Chelsea Eline asked city officials to instruct the beach patrol not to confront bare-chested women so they could sunbathe. Eline said she planned to go topless at the Ocean City beach.

Beach patrol leaders largely agreed with Eline’s request. They put out a memo to employees telling them not to “approach the topless women,” even if other beach-goers complained.

Some women interpreted the memo as an endorsement of toplessness. It also touched off a community debate that led to the emergency ordinance followed by the lawsuit.

The women plaintiffs argued the ban violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause, which is supposed to guarantee gender equality.

Ocean City officials argued their female toplessness ban protected their image as a family-friendly resort town. Their ordinance said female breasts in public were “still seen by society as unpalatable.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh advised Ocean City officials that their ban did not violate state or federal law.

Bredar largely agreed with the state attorney general in his federal court ruling. It said the ban is rationally related to protecting the public interest. He also said unequal treatment of male and female toplessness is supported by Supreme Court precedent.

The Supreme Court has decided that physical differences between men and women provide a valid basis for laws like Ocean City’s ban.

However, Bredar acknowledged that his ruling, as well as the Supreme Court precedent, might not stand the test of time.

“This Court questions whether laws which distinguish between men and women based on ‘public sensibilities’ can survive indefinitely,” Bredar’s opinion says. “Such amorphous concepts are vulnerable to prejudice and stereotypes grounded more in fear than in reality.”

For now, he said his only option was to follow Supreme Court guidance.

“Whether or not society should differentiate between male and female breasts is a separate inquiry from whether it is constitutional to do so,” Bredar wrote.

The laws in other states also are unsettled.

New Hampshire has an anti-toplessness law that was challenged by three women who were fined for exposing their breasts in public. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Fort Collins, Colorado, passed an ordinance banning female toplessness that also was challenged in a lawsuit. The Tenth Circuit federal appeals court in Colorado blocked enforcement of the ordinance last September by saying it unconstitutionally discriminates against women.

The ruling effectively gave women a right to go topless anywhere it is allowed for men within the jurisdiction of the Tenth Circuit, which includes Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Law

December 7, 2021
by Dan McCue
Select Committee on Jan. 6 Threatens Meadows With Contempt

WASHINGTON — The Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol says it will launch criminal charges on... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol says it will launch criminal charges on former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows if he refuses to cooperate with the probe. Meadows, who has been an on-again, off-again witness for the... Read More

December 7, 2021
by Dan McCue
Federal Court Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A federal judge in Georgia has blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate for federal... Read More

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A federal judge in Georgia has blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate for federal contractors, handing a victory to several state attorneys general who argued the mandate created an unfair economic burden. Presiding in the federal courthouse in historic downtown... Read More

December 6, 2021
by Dan McCue
Congressional Democrats Raised Concerns Over WarnerMedia/Discovery Merger

WASHINGTON — House and Senate Democrats on Monday raised their objections to the pending $43 billion merger of WarnerMedia and... Read More

WASHINGTON — House and Senate Democrats on Monday raised their objections to the pending $43 billion merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, arguing it will hurt the Hollywood jobs market and squelch diversity in the entertainment workforce. In a letter sent Monday to Attorney General Merrick Garland... Read More

December 6, 2021
by Dan McCue
Treasury Dept to Step Up Scrutiny of Money Laundering in Real Estate Market

WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department is seeking public comment on ways to reduce money laundering and other corruption in the... Read More

WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department is seeking public comment on ways to reduce money laundering and other corruption in the real estate market, part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to curb illicit financial activity as the economy continues to recover from the coronavirus... Read More

December 1, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Supreme Court Case Hints at Change In Federal Agency Regulation Decisions

WASHINGTON — Conservative judges on the Supreme Court suggested this week during arguments in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit over Medicare drug... Read More

WASHINGTON — Conservative judges on the Supreme Court suggested this week during arguments in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit over Medicare drug reimbursement that now might be the time to overturn a decades-old guiding principle of administrative law. The issue in American Hospital Association v. Becerra is a... Read More

Justices Signal They'll OK New Abortion Limits, May Toss Roe

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Wednesday signaled it would uphold Mississippi's 15-week ban on abortion and... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Wednesday signaled it would uphold Mississippi's 15-week ban on abortion and may go much further to overturn the nationwide right to abortion that has existed for nearly 50 years. The fate of the court’s historic 1973 Roe... Read More

News From The Well
Exit mobile version