Ald. Devon Reid’s plan to free the female breast from the oppression of clothing was tabled by Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday night after the only female council member present objected to it.
Reid, who represents the 8th Ward, claimed that repealing the portion of the city’s public nudity ordinance that bars women, but not men, from showing their breasts, is compelled by the state’s adoption of an equal rights amendment in 1970.
But Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said the overwhelming majority of courts that have ruled on the issue have upheld the constitutionality of laws banning female toplessness.
“What’s really critical,” Revelle said, “is local community standards.”
She said courts have rules that municipalities may acknowledge physical differences between men and women in their regulations, as long as those rules are not used to enforce an economic inferiority of one group or the other.
Revelle said she was not willing to repeal the ordinance unless it became evident that’s what most residents want.
And if Evanston repealed it now, when no other Illinois communities have done so, she added, “We’d become the topless beach capital of Illinois.”
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) also expressed reservations about Reid’s plan, telling him, “You brought it up.”
Burns added that while he’s open to getting public feedback on the public nudity question, “I have no issue” with the current regulation, unless it really is out of alignment with state law.
Meanwhile, in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reports that residents of the island community voted by a 57% margin last month to approve topless sunbathing on all public and private beaches.
The change there still requires approval by the state attorney general.
Reid’s proposal would apply not just to beaches, but to all public places in Evanston. It’s now scheduled to return to the Human Services Committee for further discussion next month.