Public Nudity Rules: Fort Collins Asks Locals to Weigh in on Toplessness

In August, we told you about Go Topless Fort Collins, a campaign to goad the Fort Collins City Collins into removing the line "the breast or breasts of a female" from its public-indecency ordinance.

Months later, the council is considering doing just that — among other things.

As documented in a city council memo on view below, members are weighing multiple possibilities about how to deal with challenges to the ordinance at its upcoming October 20 meeting.

In addition, the city has posted a survey presenting locals with two options. The first "maintains the current policy that does not allow for women to be topless in public but adds an exception for breastfeeding mothers," while the second "allows for women to be topless in public."

As we've reported, this isn't the first time the issue of decriminalizing the female breast has come up in these parts. As we reported back in 2010, Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett lobbied in favor of a public nudity ordinance as a way of dealing with annual events such as the Naked Pumpkin Run and the World Naked Bike Ride. Here's a 2008 video highlighting the latter event, which has waned in recent years.

Garnett's argument for the ordinance? Participants could be charged with lesser penalties as opposed to more serious sex offenses that didn't fit the crime, he said.

Nonetheless, the Boulder American Civil Liberties Union objected to this concept for a slew of reasons, including the notion that the ordinance would criminalize the aerolas of women's nipples while legalizing those belonging to men.

And while the ordinance moved forward in the city council process, the segment about nipples was dropped.

As a result, Boulder police could only warn 52-year-old Catherine Pierce after she stirred controversy by gardening topless near an elementary school.

Go Topless advocate Brittiany Hoagland took up this cause in Fort Collins earlier this year, as she notes in a letter to a city officials shared on Facebook in late June:
"Dear Fort Collins Leaders,

I have been advocating for topless equality in Fort Collins since February. I recently found that the Colorado Constitution Article II Sec 29 explicitly states:

"Equality of the sexes. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Colorado or any of its political subdivisions on account of sex.

{Adopted November 7, 1972...Effective upon proclamation by the Governor, January 11, 1973. (See Laws 1972, p. 647.)]"

It is thereby unconstitutional for Fort Collins to continue having this law, Sec 17-142 "No person shall knowingly appear in any public place in a nude state or state of undress such that the genitals or buttocks of either sex or the breast or breasts of a female are exposed."

This law needs to be changed immediately.

Thank you for your time,

Brittiany Hoagland"
A subsequent Go Topless protest on August 23 got plenty of media attention, making it impossible for the Fort Collins City Council to dodge the issue.

In the aforementioned memo, authored by assistant city attorney Bronwyn Scurlock and dated September 15, three options are offered.

The first: "Eliminate the current City Code provision in its entirety."

The second: "Modification to current public indecency provision changing the name to public nudity and exempting breastfeeding, nudity in performance venues, young children, persons undergoing emergency medical treatment, and for persons in dressing rooms."

The third: "Adopt provision similar to Boulder," which "prohibits exposure of genitalia of either sex, and does not prohibit either the female or male breasts."

The survey simplifies things considerably. The three choices participants are given are "maintain current policy but make exceptions for breastfeeding mothers," "allow women to be topless in public" or "uncertain — need more information."

Hoagland is among those encouraging locals to vote. In a Facebook post, she writes, "Who wants internet points going to the right cause? Me and hopefully you too! VOTE here to silence the rape culture apologists, body shamers, misogynists and more here."

To access the survey, click here. Continue to see the aforementioned memo, featuring proposed draft ordinances, followed by a Go Topless flier that outlines the organization's positions.

Fort Collins Memo: Options for Public Nudity Ordinances

Go Topless Flier

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts