Women in Fort Collins, Colorado, now have the right to “free the nipple” in public, after city officials decided that fighting to keep an ordinance against women appearing topless in public was too costly.
While this case may have taken place in Fort Collins, the decision effectively changes the laws for 6 states that fall under the 10th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction. Those states are Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
The initial court battle took place in February when gender-equality activists argued that a law against topless women was unconstitutional discrimination. This week the Denver Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s ruling that such laws were, in fact, unconstitutional.
“We’re left, as the district court was, to suspect that the City’s professed interest in protecting children derives not from any morphological differences between men’s and women’s breasts but from negative stereotypes depicting women’s breasts, but not men’s breasts, as sex objects,” Judge Gregory Phillips wrote.
City officials insisted that it was necessary to keep the laws on the books, citing concerns that women would end up “parading in front of elementary schools or swimming topless in the public pool.”
However, the court decision noted that female toplessness is not criminalized in the nearby cities of Boulder and Denver where there has yet to be “any harmful fallout.”
Fort Collins has reportedly spent more than $300,000 fighting to keep the law active, and the city is no longer willing to continue devoting resources to the cause.
Tyler Marr, a Fort Collins government spokesman, said that the city decided there were better uses for the money.
“I think the council as they articulated in their 4-3 vote, really just thought as a matter of priority, no guarantee of success or that the supreme court would even take it up, that the money was just better spent on other city priorities,” Marr said.
Free the Nipple has been credited with helping to make this change happen, as similar court battles take place across the country.
In 2016, three women were arrested for going topless at a New Hampshire beach, and just this week the United States Supreme Court asked the state to respond to the incident. The women have been attempting to bring the case to the Supreme Court, but the state has been dragging their feet accepting the appeal.
Andy McNulty, an attorney representing Free The Nipple, said that this is about equality under the law:
“The idea that women’s bodies are purely sexual is something that, it was perpetuated by this law. By getting rid of this law, we are saying women are more than just a sexual object and their bodies are more than just a sexual object. They’re human beings just like men.”