Council votes unanimously to legalize public breastfeeding, public toplessness still illegal

Erik Petrovich

Fort Collins City Council voted unanimously to allow public breastfeeding Tuesday in an effort to update the ordinance to match more modern feelings. In all other cases of women over the age of 10, public toplessness revealing the female breasts will remain illegal. 

Originally, the council faced two options for updating the public nudity code. The first option would have allowed women to be topless only if nursing a child in public. The second option would have allowed women to be topless in the city limits without repercussion, with the same treatment as men.

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The first option will receive a second hearing Nov. 3 to ratify the decision and make it city law, while the second option was dropped in the face of overwhelming public backlash.

The proposal for changes came from activists in the community who strongly believe that allowing women to choose to be topless in public would be a major stride forward for gender equality.

Brittiany Hoagland, a leader of the “Free the Nipple” campaign in Fort Collins, said the decision does not go far enough to combat gender inequality.

“I am very disappointed,” Hoagland said. “A lot of the opposition to our cause comes from ignorance. Now, you have the added sexism in it, of women are going to be asking for it. Focus on the perpetrators, not the victims.”

The decision was accepted by some other members of the crowd who saw topless women in public as not advancing equality, but rather objectifying women and ignoring family values. One man compared it to turning Fort Collins into nothing more than a public strip club.

“I think it was good, I think we need to uphold our family values in Fort Collins,” said resident Shelley Wagner. “I don’t feel like it (option two) is protecting our women or our children, or even our men. I don’t feel like it protects our rights at all.”

During the meeting Tuesday, views and opinions varied from total support for topless women in public to total disdain for the proposal, which some said was needless and immoral. One man compared the passing of the second option to the Nuremberg trials, where he said morality triumphed over a nation’s laws, and recommended the city council vote against it to accomplish the same.

Council member Ray Martinez argued that women should not be allowed to be topless in public as it sends the wrong message of sexualization. He asked why we do not want to see pornographic magazines advertising to the public, but would be OK with seeing the same thing in public.

“Why would we want to see it live downtown?” Martinez asked the council.

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The sentiment was shared among many members of the crowd, who argued that many families would not be comfortable living where they cannot control what their children are exposed to.

The unanimously agreed upon changes to the public nudity ordinance will allow women to breastfeed in public without being charged with public nudity for exposing the breasts in public. It is a loss for the “Free the Nipple” movement in Fort Collins, said Sam Six, a women’s rights activist, as it fundamentally adds nothing new.

“It adds in the terminology for breastfeeding as a pass, which was already federally and state protected as a right,” Six said. 

Hoagland said this decision does not mean the end of her fight against inequality.

“We are going to get loud and we are not going to go away,” Hoagland said. “We will be at the second reading, we will definitely be hosting more protests, and we will definitely be seeking legal recourse.” 

Collegian City Beat Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EAPetrovich.