- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

DENVER — It’s official: Women can’t appear topless in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The Fort Collins City Council voted late Tuesday to reject a proposal that would have allowed women to go naked in public from the waist up.

Brittiany Hoagland, an activist with Go Topless, had pushed to change the city code banning bare breasts in public, but at the packed meeting, supporters of the idea were far outnumbered by opponents.

Many residents who spoke during the lengthy public-comment period said they were flabbergasted to find the council debating the matter.

“It feels very surreal to be here talking about this issue tonight,” Jason LeVasseur said. “Like it’s actually here on the table, we’re actually considering this.”

Others raised concerns about disrupting the city’s family-friendly atmosphere by attracting predators and increasing the risk of sexual assault.

“I believe this change would not lead to the liberation of women but rather to the degradation of women,” Brad Gilliland said. “This degradation is an open door to greater violence and abuse of women in our city.”

Proponents argued that the ordinance is sexist because it treats men and women unequally, noting that the state of Colorado and cities like Denver and Boulder do not mention bare breasts in their public-indecency laws.

“There is no valid argument against granting equal rights,” Samantha Six said. “Women deserve and should have the right to make decisions concerning their own bodies. By not deciding in favor of equality, you’re saying women are less deserving than men.”

She also said that “there’s no place for religion in a public forum,” prompting pushback from other speakers.

“I’ve not heard very many quote unquote religious comments made tonight,” Fred Wagner said. “And if I was a religious person, does that discredit me from being able to talk? After all, even if I was religious, I’m a citizen of the country and of the state and of the county.”

Rachel Dozier rejected the argument that being unable to go topless amounts to discrimination.

“I am not in any way discriminated against because I keep my breasts covered,” she said. “That is not where my identity comes from.”

Pro-topless groups like Free the Nipple have drawn national attention this year with shirtless protests in New York City and Venice, California.

Advocates argue that requiring women to cover their breasts leads to objectification and even contributes to “rape culture” by encouraging a “sexist power hierarchy.”

“Feminine upper body parts are objectified and used to sell everything from cars to fast food, yet when a person outside a picture or video chooses to show — or not show — we get shamed, harassed, raped, murdered,” said Ms. Hoagland, who lives in Fort Collins. “In this case, we could also be fined and jailed.”

Other speakers kept it light, joking about how most men should also cover up.

The council did approve exemptions to the ordinance for breastfeeding mothers and girls under 10.

An unscientific online survey conducted by the city prior to the vote found 61 percent against allowing female toplessness and 39 percent in favor. Fifty-five percent of respondents were women.

“It’s not appropriate, it’s not decent, it’s not right, and I think that everybody in this community knows that,” said Scottie Hollingsworth during public comment. “If she [Hoagland] doesn’t appreciate it, she can move to Boulder.”

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