Ocean City Deems Topfreedom “Unpalatable” and Unsuitable For Families
Update: The Maryland Attorney General’s Office came out with their “unofficial” opinion on the topfreedom issue, and it wasn’t good. Read the follow-up blog.
Last week, news came out that topfreedom was allowed, or more precisely, not outlawed, for women at Ocean City beach in Maryland. This was after three women were recently seen sunbathing topfree, and word got out that the Ocean City Beach Patrol had issued a memo telling their staff not to bother topfree women.
This, however, was not done in the name of gender equality. It was based on the absence of any law against it. There are currently no state laws against women’s topfreedom in Maryland.
People thought this was great news. Meanwhile Ocean City was trying to quickly backtrack their new reputation as having a topfree beach. On June 9, a post appeared on the .gov website declaring, “Ocean City Is Not A Topless Beach & Will Not Become A Topless Beach.” It clarified that the Mayor and City Council were firmly against women’s topfreedom.
On June 10, just 3 days after the first story came out, Ocean City unanimously passed an emergency law against women being topless anywhere within the city. Violating the ordinance is a “municipal infraction” subject to a fine of up to $1,000. (Hefty punishment for having female breasts!)
There was lots of talk from the Mayor about OC being a “family” destination and how they need to protect the kids from exposure to female breasts. No word on what kind of detrimental effect all the male breasts have had on these kids over the years.
I couldn’t find the full ordinance to read online (if anyone finds it, please share), but have seen excerpts, and it’s terrible. Unsurprisingly it reveals just how sexist and stupid the city officials are. Here are a few excerpts I’ve pulled from this article at Maryland Coast Dispatch:
“There is no constitutional right for an individual to appear in public nude or in a state of nudity. It does not implicate either the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the right to privacy, or a protected liberty interest. It lacks any communicated value that might call for First Amendment protection, nor does it implicate the right or privacy or the right to be alone. One does not have right to impose one’s lifestyle on others who have an equal right to be left alone.” [Being topfree is a LIFESTYLE, now?]
“…Whatever personal right one has to be nude or in a state of nudity, that right becomes subject to government interest and regulation when one seeks to exercise it in public… A gender-based distinction challenged under the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution is gauged by an important government interest this is substantially accomplished by the challenged discriminatory means.”
“…Protecting the public sensibilities is an important governmental interest based on the indisputable difference between the sexes. Further, a prohibition against females baring their breasts in public, although not offensive to everyone, is still seen by society as unpalatable.” [LADIES, YOUR BREASTS ARE NOW UNPALATABLE. Except to babies. And heterosexual men. Other than that your breasts are definitely unpalatable.]
“…The equal protection clause does not demand that things that are different in fact be treated the same in law, nor that a government pretend there are no physiological differences between men and women.”
Yes, that’s right. They think having topfree equality means pretending there are no physiological differences between the sexes. Apparently no one has ever informed them that male and female breasts are actually made of pretty much the same exact tissue and parts, including mammary glands. And if you believe female breasts are different because they feed babies — well, that actually requires them to be exposed. But even beyond that point, this poorly written argument makes no sense!!!
This story is actually bigger than just the town of Ocean City, though. It’s also about the pending legal acceptance of topfree equality in Maryland and whether discriminatory topfree laws are unconstitutional.
As stated above, Maryland does not currently have any laws against women being topless in public. But as many people know, the absence of a law doesn’t mean that it’s accepted and that there won’t be arrests, charges, fines, etc.
As we discussed in our interview with her, activist Chelsea Covington has been establishing topfree rights in many places across the northeast by contacting police departments and local authorities beforehand. She has been very successful (her persistence helps) in getting official permission to be topfree in various parks, towns and cities (and thus permission for all women to do so in these places).
But… not when it came to Maryland. She has been communicating with legal authorities and trying for years to get them to state that female toplessness is legal. She has also gone topfree herself in Ocean City on many occasions, without incident.
Finally, last August the Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby made an opinion request to Maryland’s Attorney General. This opinion was supposed to be written up within 3 – 9 months, but here we are 10 months later and still no opinion.
When asked about this, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General told the Washington Post, “We will be drafting one, and I expect it to be released soon.”
What’s even more important and interesting is that this “opinion” is not really a question of whether or not female topfreedom is legal in MD. It is already pretty clear that it is legal. (For more details on the current MD laws and how they’re enforced, see this explanatory post on Chelsea’s blog.)
Chelsea recently reports on her blog that the opinion request was reworded at some point “to examine whether a local ordinance that treated genders differently would be unconstitutional.”
Like the one in Ocean City for example. The town actually wrote that they have passed this new ordinance “while awaiting AG opinion.”
So the AG’s office will effectively indicate how they think a local discriminatory topless ordinance case would play out in the highest courts of Maryland.
Chelsea has also pointed out: “Maryland’s constitution protects gender equality with the highest standard in the nation, namely with an ‘absolute prohibition’ on gender discrimination. This means there exists no justification for treating genders differently when making or enforcing the law. None.”
Let’s hope that now the AG will finally release their opinion in light of this Ocean City nonsense, and that it will be in favor of gender equality!
And as a side note, I’m glad to see how this OC issue has inspired opinion posts like this one: “If only lawmakers acted on bicyclist safety as quickly as they did beach nudity.”
Photo credit: By AerialLimits – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50682908