Oral Arguments Heard in Fort Collins Topless Ban Case

‘Free the Nipple’ fight against the city ordinance reaches 10th Circuit

A lawsuit challenging the City of Fort Collins’ topless ban has reached the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Brittiany Hoagland, founder of the Fort Collins chapter of Free the Nipple, and group member Samantha Six are listed alongside the organization itself as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The 10th Circuit heard oral arguments earlier this month after the federal district court granted a preliminary injunction against the city.

The original complaint brought by the plaintiffs cited the First Amendment, but that argument was dismissed at the federal district court. Plaintiffs argued the ordinance violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and Colorado’s equal rights amendment. The city declined to comment on the case.

Fort Collins’ ordinance states that “no female who is 10 years of age or older shall knowingly appear in any public place with her breast exposed below the top of the areola and nipple while located” in public. In August 2015, Hoagland protested the ordinance by standing shirtless (but with her nipples covered) on the street in Fort Collins near Colorado State University. Punishment for violation of the ordinance includes up to a $2,650 fine, 180 days in jail or both.

After Hoagland’s protest, the city discussed modification and repeal of the ordinance at a city council meeting in October, but the revised ordinance that passed in November kept the language prohibiting women from showing their breasts in a public space. Both versions of the law exempt breastfeeding mothers, an exception that Killmer Lane & Newman associate Andrew McNulty said is “telling.”

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the January 29, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.