A federal court ruling over a ban on women going topless in public has made the act legal for women in six states, including Oklahoma.
In the case, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a topless ban in Fort Collins, Colo., after two women sued that city for the right to go topless in public.
This means women can now walk down the street, gather at a public park, or perhaps even go topless at a public swimming pool.
Sequoyah County Sheriff Larry Lane said Friday that he hadn’t read the ruling yet, but added: “I don’t like it. I think it would make an opportunity for more sexual assaults.”
Terry Franklin, Sallisaw’s police chief, said he didn’t think anyone would go topless in the city, but noted that he couldn’t predict how people will react. “We will wait and see what the district attorney says, and we will have to abide by the law.”
Franklin also pointed out that businesses and government offices probably won’t allow topless women inside their buildings.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals encompasses Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and the ruling makes topless bans in those states no longer enforceable.
The lawsuit was brought by two women who are part of the #FreeTheNipple movement on social media, specifically Instagram, which does not allow photos of exposed breasts.
Plaintiffs Brit Hoagland and Samantha Six sued Fort Collins, saying that being able to take off their shirts in public is their right, and is a step toward gender equality.
Hoagland told a media outlet that “Everybody should be able to be comfortable on a hot day and if that means taking their shirt off, so be it. No matter how you look, you should have the same freedom as the person next to you. And it’s also about equality. Addressing small parts of inequality can make a big difference in how people are treated on a day-to-day basis, and I thought Free the Nipple was just one small step closer to how it should be.”
“We made a huge impact way beyond Fort Collins, and we were just trying to start a conversation,” Hoagland said. “And that conversation reached to so many more people. It’s a miraculous achievement I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime, let alone so soon.”
Not everybody thinks the ruling is a good idea.
Peg Williams of Boulder, Colo., said “I guess as a woman, I mean, I do think we deserve equal rights in everything, so I guess that would count, too. But I think if women do choose to do that, they might be asking for a little bit of trouble.”
George Langel of Fort Collins pointed out what he says is a contradiction of laws. “A woman can expose her breasts, but a man can’t go in an alley behind a Dumpster and (urinate) without coming up on criminal charges.”
The Tulsa Police Department met with the city attorney this week to discuss the ruling, and according to Sgt. Jillian Phippen, "You can't present (breasts) in a sexual way, touching them or saying inappropriate sexual things. That could still be considered outraging public decency or indecent exposure.”
The ruling also means it's legal for people to take pictures of topless women they see in public and post them on social media. The ruling also gives teenagers the right to be seen in public with bare breasts, but taking a photo of them will still be considered child pornography.
Phippen worries the court decision could lead to additional sexual assaults, and that seeing a woman’s breasts could be a trigger for some offenders, a concern also voiced by Sequoyah County Sheriff Larry Lane.
"Whether they walk up and touch you, because we know it happens when you have clothes on. If that's what they want to do, what's to stop them if you don't have a shirt on and are exposing yourself?" Phippen said.
The city of Tulsa is not sure what to expect, but officials say they don't believe they'll see many, if any, women walking around topless, and because the ruling is still so new they are still figuring out the details. It will go forward on a case-by-case basis.
Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer
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