A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ocean City’s ordinance barring women from going topless is moving forward as millions prepare to descend on Maryland’s mega resort this season.
OCEAN CITY, Md. — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a 2017 Ocean City ordinance banning women from being topless in public is legal, denying a claim that the rule was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
The ordinance passed on June 10, 2017, banned only women, and not men, from exposing their breasts in public, according to court documents.
The emergency ordinance was in response to one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, Chelsea Eline, and her “intention to go topless in Ocean City” back in August 2016, according to court documents.
Ocean City argued back in 2017 and in court that the reason behind the ordinance was to protect the public.
“Protecting the public sensibilities is an important governmental interest based on an indisputable difference between the sexes,” according to court documents. “Further, a prohibition against females baring their breasts in public, although not offensive to everyone, is still seen by society as unpalatable.”
Ocean City officials based that opinion on the “overwhelming majority” of public comments the town received stating their disapproval with the idea of public female toplessness in Ocean City.
Following the passage of Ocean City’s topless rule, the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland weighed in stating, “It is our view that Maryland courts would hold that prohibiting women from exposing their breasts in public while allowing men to do so under the same circumstances does not violate the federal or state constitution.”
Regardless, in January 2018 Eline and five other women filed a lawsuit against the town, saying its ordinance was a violation of their constitutional rights.
Matthew Prensky is the Ocean City News Reporter for Delmarva Now. His work focuses on business, government and community issues in Ocean City and Worcester County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @matthewprensky.
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