Jacy Marmaduke, Fort Collins Coloradoan Published 12:37 a.m. MT Sept. 4, 2019 | Updated 11:05 a.m. MT Sept. 6, 2019
Brittiany Hoagland protests Fort Collins indecency laws Aug. 6, 2015, as traffic passes by at the intersection of South Shields and West Elizabeth streets. Hoagland says the language in the city law is sexist and unconstitutional against women and the transgender community. (Photo: Austin Humphreys/The Coloradoan)
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. Wednesday to reflect the full amount of money the city of Fort Collins spent on the lawsuit.
Fort Collins hammered the last nail in the coffin of the now-defunct topless ban that inspired a three-year, $322,000 “Free the Nipple” lawsuit.
City Council on Tuesday agreed to remove references to the 2015 policy from Fort Collins’ public nudity code. Language barring women and girls over age 10 from exposing their breasts in public will officially disappear from city code Sept. 17. But the ban has been unenforceable since February 2017, when a district court judge ruled it violated the 14th Amendment because it applied only to women.
The legal battle over Fort Collins’ topless ban next headed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 2-1 against the policy in February 2019.
“We’re left, as the district court was, to suspect that the City’s professed interest in protecting children derives not from any morphological differences between men’s and women’s breasts but from negative stereotypes depicting women’s breasts, but not men’s breasts, as sex objects,” Judge Gregory Phillips wrote in the majority opinion.
That left Fort Collins with the option of pursuing a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, although there was no guarantee the high court would agree to review the case. City Council voted 4-3 in May to stop defending the contested portion of the ordinance in court. The city spent about $120,000 on its defense, city attorney Carrie Daggett said Wednesday, and negotiated a $202,000 payment to cover the legal fees of plaintiffs Brit Hoagland and Samantha Six.
Council had until June 17 to reverse course and appeal to the Supreme Court, but the case officially closed July 24 with a permanent court order stating Fort Collins can’t enforce a topless ban that applies only to women and girls.
Still, council’s decision to remove the ban from city code wasn’t without controversy. Council member Ken Summers pulled the item from council’s consent agenda, which allowed community members to comment and council members to speak about the code change at greater length.https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2019/09/04/fort-collins-axes-topless-ban-inspired-free-nipple-lawsuit/2200123001/