KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Nipples can be exposed in the southwest Missouri city of Springfield while the American Civil Liberties Union and city leaders seek to resolve a dispute over an indecent exposure ordinance passed after a topless rally.
The ACLU announced Monday that a federal judge has granted a temporary injunction that renders unenforceable an ordinance barring the exposure of any part of the female breast at or below the top of the areola. The order, issued Friday, leaves in place a narrower indecent exposure ordinance that bars the exposure of genitals and buttocks for sexual arousal or to cause alarm.
The issue heated up last summer when two women affiliated with an organization called “Free the Nipple” held a topless rally to dispute a city ordinance on exposure that required women to cover their nipples. After that rally, the city council passed a stricter ordinance that requires most of the female breast to be covered.
The ACLU, which sued on behalf of rally organizers, argues the new ordinance criminalizes free expression by women and subjects them to “inferior legal status.”
Tony Rothert, ACLU of Missouri’s legal director, said the ACLU’s view is that “if the city wants to treat men and women differently, they have to justify it with something more than it offends their moral sensibilities.”
Besides the injunction, proceedings on the case have been stayed for 60 days. A joint status report is due March 23.
City spokeswoman Cora Scott said in an email that the matter has been referred to a city council committee for “further review.”
Rothert said the hope is that both sides can “work out a permanent solution” and added the “council is at least considering changing the ordinance.”
“The goal,” he said, “is to get equal treatment for men and woman in the city of Springfield.”
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