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Federal ruling could make it legal to go topless in Utah, 5 other states

Women can now legally go topless in Utah, 5 other states, after federal ruling. (File photo: KUTV){p}{/p}
Women can now legally go topless in Utah, 5 other states, after federal ruling. (File photo: KUTV)

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SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - A federal court ruling over a ban on women going topless in public could make it legal for women to go topless in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma, according to a local TV station.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is over those six states, struck down a topless ban in Ft. Collins, Colo. after two women sued the city for the right to go topless in public.

Since Ft. Collins is not appealing the decision (the next step would be the Supreme Court), the ban in that city has been struck down. That could impact any potential legal cases in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma if they were challenged in court, but that's up to each individual case. No such cases have been brought up in Utah since the 10th Circuit Court's ruling.

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 Ft. Collins, saying that being able to take off their shirts in public is their right, and is a step towards gender equality.

Hoagland told the media outlet:

Everybody should be able to be comfortable on a hot day and if that means taking their shirt of so be it. No matter how you look, you should have the same freedom at 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.

Attorney Andy McNulty, who is representing Hoagland and Six says topless bans are attacks on equal rights.

McNulty said:

The idea that women’s bodies are purely sexual is something that, it was perpetrated by this law. By getting rid of this law, we are saying women are more than just a sexual object and their bodies are more than just a sexual object. They’re human beings just like men.

Deputy Director of Information for the city of Fort Collins Tyler Marr said:

I think the council as they articulated in their 4-3 vote, really just thought as a matter of priority, no guarantee of success or that the Supreme Court would even take it up, that the money was just better spent on other city priorities.

“We made a huge impact way beyond Fort Collins, and we were just trying to start a conversation," Hoagland told KGUN. "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, Colorado 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 Ft. Collins pointed out what he says is a contradiction of laws:

Just seems like a contradictory of laws a woman can expose her breasts, but a man can’t go in an alley behind a dumpster and take a pee without coming up on criminal charges.

The issue is far from settled, especially on a nationwide level. In 2017, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which rules over Chicago and parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, upheld Chicago's topless ban on women.

That means two federal courts, on the same level, have two different rulings regarding very similar situations.

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Clarification: While the court ruling strikes down Ft. Collins' ban on toplessness, it does not necessarily apply ordinances in Utah enforcing topless bans. Basically, someone would have to get ticketed or arrested for going topless cite the 10th Circuit Court's ruling. That could either strike down the ticket/arrest, or an appeal could take it to the Supreme Court. In other words, don't go topless just yet.

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