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Town passes emergency ordinance against boobs

Topless sunbathers — and distracted lifeguards — force urgent weekend intervention.
Sunbathing Ocean City Maryland
Photo: Getty Images

Ladies, don't try to free the nipple in this Maryland town, or you may end up in the pokey.

Ocean City officials passed an emergency ordinance on Saturday banning public nudity from public beaches, reports WBAL-TV. The precipitating body part was nipples: last summer, "Topfreedom" advocate Chelsea Covington filed a lawsuit with the Maryland Attorney General for the right to go topless.

Why the urgency? With the arrival of beach weather, some women have started going topless. Apparently there was a threat to public safety, because lifeguards can't keep their heads in the game. The Town of Ocean City posted this on its Facebook page: 

"Despite what is being circulated on social media, the Town of Ocean City is not a topless beach and will not become a topless beach... We want our lifeguards to have their eyes on the ocean, as the safety of our swimmers is their first priority."

There was some confusion after the Beach Patrol was warned not to approach topless bathers. Town officials clarified that this didn't mean toplessness was legal and that police had the authority to make arrests.

"The mayor and City Council are unanimously opposed to women being topless on our beach or in any public area in Ocean City,” Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said in a statement. "While we respect Ms. Covington's desire to express what rights she believes she may have, Ocean City is a family resort."

For her part, Covington told the news station: "At its core, the Topfreedom movement asserts equality under the law and rejects body shaming, bullying and victim-blaming. Without exception, the Maryland constitution guarantees equal protection regardless of gender. I'm grateful the Ocean City Beach Patrol has acknowledged that Maryland law allows female bare-chestedness."

(Trivia: Maryland's state motto is "Fatti maschii, parole femine," which loosely translates "Manly deeds, feminine words" to Italian and has been decried as somewhat sexist.)

The issue is stayed until the Attorney General releases its interpretation of the state's equal protection clause.

The Attorney General's Office told the news station, "All we can say at this point is, 'We're working on it.'"

 
 
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