Judge’s order to allow women to go topless in Fort Collins

Katie Marshall

If a woman chooses to walk around Fort Collins topless, she may now do so without citation.

Sage Sullivan fully embraces the repeal on banned toplessness in Fort Collins. (Photo by Kaitlyn Ancell | Collegian)

A federal judge in Denver blocked the Fort Collins ban on females being topless on Feb. 22. Fort Collins voted to keep this ban in place on Oct. 20, 2015, after much debate.


U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson commented that this ban was discriminatory against women, and therefore unconstitutional, according to the Coloradoan.

The law was originally written in order to maintain public order and to protect children, according to the Fort Collins City Council. It did have two exceptions: women who were breastfeeding and girls younger than 10 would be able to be topless in public.

City attorney Carrie Daggett issued a statement on Feb. 22 stating that the city would no longer cite women for exposing their breasts in public due to the order, but the case is still pending a final decision.

“Most women wouldn’t actually take action on this law, they just want equality,” said Zoë Pyle, a first year student at CSU.

CSU does not currently enforce a dress code for students. Instead, CSU recommends for students to wear what is comfortable to attend class.

The complaint was originally filed in May 2016 by Brittany Hoagland and Samantha Six. They accused Fort Collins of violating the free speech clause in the 1st Amendment, as well as the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Hoagland and Six both claimed that the Fort Collins ban on women’s breasts was one of the most restrictive public nudity ordinances in the nation.

According to the Associated Press, Denver does not have any gender-specific indecency laws.

In Jackson’s order, he stated that Fort Collins has not presented any evidence that shows that women’s breasts endanger children.

“Simply put, Fort Collins has not shown the Court that a law permitting public exposure of female breasts would have a significantly negative impact on the public,” Jackson wrote in his statement.


Jackson also stated that though this law is passed, he doubts that women would be regularly walking through downtown Fort Collins with exposed breasts, which was an expressed concern of advocates for the legislation.

Some CSU students agreed that while the law exists, it is more a statement of equality than practicality.

“I think that it’s absolutely ridiculous that there was a law in the first place that women couldn’t have their top off,” said Rachel Baiyor, an ecosystems science and sustainability major. “Everybody has nipples and everybody knows what they look like.”

Since the ban has not officially been lifted, CSUPD will continue to monitor the case.

“CSUPD and the University will continue to monitor this case,” wrote Dell Rae Civarola, Risk and Public Safety Communications Manager, in a statement to the Collegian. “However, while a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction on the city ban on toplessness, Colorado law still prohibits public nudity and indecently exposing oneself in a sexual manner to alarm or offend others, or exposing one’s intimate parts in a lewd manner.”

While some may interpret this Colorado law to include women’s breasts, the judge wrote that it is only an issue as society has classified the women’s breast as a sexual object.

“The naked female breast is seen as disorderly or dangerous because society, from Renaissance paintings to Victoria’s Secret commercials, has conflated female breasts with genitalia and stereotyped them as much,” Jackson wrote in his order.

Though some CSU students celebrate this law, others are not as comfortable with it.

“Personally, if I had kids, I wouldn’t want them to see random topless women around town,” said Autumn Howard, a first year CSU student. “If you are comfortable with being in public showing off your boobs, that’s cool and more power to you. But, I wouldn’t do that, and I would probably be taken off guard if I saw someone topless in public.”

Katie Marshall can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @katie_marshall3.