Federal Judge Blocks City Ban on Topless Women Due to Discrimination

A federal judge in Denver has blocked enforcement of a Fort Collins ordinance that bars women, but not men, from exposing their breasts in public.

U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson issued a preliminary injunction in a Feb. 22 order, report the Associated Press, USA Today and the Denver Post. He ruled in a case brought by a group called Free the Nipple.

Jackson said the ordinance likely violates the equal protection clause. The ordinance “perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire whereas male breasts are not,” he wrote.

The ordinance bars public exposure of the breast below the top of the areola and nipple, except for girls younger than age 10 or women who are breast-feeding. Violation of the law, which also bars both sexes from exposing their genitals or buttocks in public, carries a fine of up to $2,650 and potential prison time of up to 180 days.

Jackson said other courts considering the issue have ruled differently, but he “concluded that going out on this lonely limb is the right thing to do. I have no more right to fall back on ‘the way we have always done it’ than others who have reassessed their thinking.”

Jackson cited testimony by a researcher who said the stereotype that female breasts are objects of desire was created through sexual objectification of women, which contributes to higher rates of sexual assault and violence. According to the researcher, the stereotype serves the function of keeping women in their place.

Jackson said he was skeptical of testimony by the city assistant police chief, who said that topless women might distract drivers and disrupt traffic. Nor has the city produced meaningful evidence that topless women endanger children, Jackson said.

“At bottom, this ordinance is based upon ipse dixit—the female breast is a sex object because we say so,” Jackson wrote. “That is, the naked female breast is seen as disorderly or dangerous because society, from Renaissance paintings to Victoria’s Secret commercials, has conflated female breasts with genitalia and stereotyped them as such. The irony is that by forcing women to cover up their bodies, society has made naked women’s breasts something to see.”

About Bobby Rodrigo

A long time legal professional, journalist, advocate, and activist, Bobby is part of We Do Better Relief, We Do Better, United Coalition of Cannabis Activists, Peachtree NORML, Human Solution International, Colorado NORML, Behind the Smoke, The Goodness Tour, We Do Better Coin, We Do Better CBD, Best Interests of the Child, Tax Revolution Institute Inc, American Bar Association, International Bar Association, National Association of Enrolled Agents, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Atlanta Food & Farm, Coffee Party USA, Director, Solutions Institute, People Against The N.D.A.A., Flint Garden City COOP LLC, American Constitution Society For Law and Policy, Capitol Area Muslim Bar Association and National Legal Aid Association. Holds Press Credentials from The Atlanta Press Club, Native American Journalists Association, Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists, and the National Press Photographers Association. Member, Produces and hosts his radio show I Take LIBERTY With My Coffee and also has written for many media outlets including The Fifth Column, and Anti-Media.