Faced with criticism of Ald. Devon Reid’s proposal to repeal the city’s ban on the public display of female breasts, the Human Services Committee Monday voted to refer the issue to the city’s Equity and Empowerment Commission.
Despite the clear language in Reid’s proposal to strike the ban from the city code, Reid insisted that was not his intent.
Without the provision, female residents would be legally free under the city code to appear topless on city beaches, in city parks, on city streets and in other public places — including the City Council chamber where the committee meeting was held.
But Reid claimed Tuesday he wanted only to make clear how the ordinance would apply to persons who are not “gender binary.”
Reid, who has no formal legal training, had previously claimed that the ordinance violates the state constitution.
But he was assured by both Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings and Interim Corporation Counsel Derke Price that the existing language would be defensible in court.
Reid then suggested that the city should substitute for the ordinance a provision similar to that used in Glencoe’s village code, which reads: “No person shall openly conduct himself or herself in a lewd, lascivious or indecent manner within the village.”
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) complained that the “lewd and lascivious” language was more vague and subjective than the existing Evanston rule and could be difficult to enforce.
“Overwhelmingly the public sentiment is that they don’t want to see this changed — that our current code reflects the current standards in the community,” Revelle added.
“Lewd and lascivious” is commonly is defined as an action that furthers an offensive sexual desire — including groping and indecent exposure of genitalia — and is often applied to adults engaging in the sexual abuse of children.
Illinois has a state statute, 720 ILCS 5/11-30, that bans public indecency. It makes it a misdemeanor for anyone 17 or older to engage in public in an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct or a lewd exposure of the body done with intent to arouse or to satisfy the sexual desire of the person.
During public comment, Park Board Chair Rob Bush said said the proposal to change the ordinance “has received no public input whatsoever,” and he urged the committee to drop it, suggesting the group has much more serious concerns to address.
Reid is the only alderperson among the nine members of the Equity and Empowerment Commission.