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Will Federal Appeals Court Keep Fort Collins Nipples Free?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

If you haven't heard of the national Free the Nipple movement, perhaps you haven't been listening, or looking, close enough. Basically, the general idea behind the movement is gender equality through the decriminalization of the female breast, chest, and nipple.

In short, the movement seeks to make sure the law is the same for both men and women that want to walk around topless. Currently, a preliminary injunction prevents women from facing potential criminal penalties for walking around topless in Fort Collins, Colorado. That injunction was ordered by a federal district court judge upon the motion of Free the Nipple, the organization behind the national movement, and the two brave plaintiffs. However, the City of Fort Collins has appealed the injunction to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will be hearing arguments mid-January.

According to the city's lawyers, the line of cases accepting that there are legally recognizable differences between the sexes, particularly when it comes to breasts, should convince the appellate court to dismiss the injunction. The city believes that the court made a "fundamentally erroneous" mistake in not regarding the female breast differently than the male breast.

However, as the lower federal district court judge noted in granting the injunction, notions of gender in law are grossly misguided due to generations upon generations of statutes being written from stereotypical views espoused by those entrenched within our patriarchal system.

Specifically the judge found "that plaintiffs have put forward a convincing case that [the statute] is based on an impermissible gender stereotype that results in a form of gender-based discrimination." And as such, the law is a violation of the equal protection clause.

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