Ald. Devon Reid’s proposal to lift Evanston’s ban on women going topless in public will be up for debate again at Tuesday’s Human Services Committee meeting.

Reid, who represents the city’s 8th Ward, claims the current ordinance violates the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.

But Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings has prepared a memo for the committee saying his department “is confident it can defend the City’s ordinance” as it stands.

Federal appeals courts have split on whether such ordinances violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The 7th Circuit, whose jurisdiction covers Evanston, in 2017 dismissed a challenge to Chicago’s public nudity ordinance filed by a woman who celebrated “GoTopless Day 2014” by walking the streets naked from the waist up wearing opaque body paint on her bare breasts.

The 8th Circuit, in 2019, upheld a Springfield, Missouri, ordinance requiring that female breasts be covered in public in the case Free the Nipple v. City of Springfield, saying the ordinance was substantially related to the city’s important governmental interest in promoting public decency.

But Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2019 repealed its ban on toplessness after spending $322,000 to defend it against a “Free the Nipple” lawsuit. In that case the 10th Circuit judges voted 2-1 that the gender-based discrimination violated the equal protection clause.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet heard a case that could resolve the conflict between the circuits.

Reid’s plan, one of a range of changes he’s seeking to the city’s public safety ordinances, was tabled at the committee’s last meeting after the only female council member present objected to it.

It has since come in for criticism from members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.

Board President Robert Bush said the topless beaches proposal “would impose on parents who would not be able to make the decision on whether their young children should be exposed to various parts of women’s bodies.”


Update 1:30 p.m. July 5: The city announced Tuesday afternoon that the Human Services Committee meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. has been canceled. The next meeting of the committee is now scheduled for Aug. 1.


Update 6:30 p.m. July 6: The Human Services Committee meeting now has been rescheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 13.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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15 Comments

  1. Devon Reid, bad idea factory. Can we find this clown a better way to spend his days?

  2. Topless, bottomless –not something I want to see! Public decency and parents already have enough to deal with. Bad idea!

  3. I’m sorry, but with absolutely no respect, why is this man pushing so hard for my right to bare my breast? Not a single woman in Evanston is asking for this. It’s starting to look creepy to me.

    And the most disturbing part is this being an agenda item at all. Find an agenda that matters, this is getting weird.

    1. You nailed it on the head – I do not know why he’s fighting so hard for “a right” that I do not want to exercise, nor do I feel like the other women of Evanston do. It seems to further the male agenda….

  4. Why is Devon Reid, a man, pushing this agenda? He is messing with Women’s bodies, trying to enact legislation that no Woman in Evanston has asked for. If we wanted topless beaches, at least a Woman should bring this up to the city council, not DEVON REID. Very suspicious.

    1. Please tell me more about how eliminating ordinances which specifically target the female body is “messing with Women’s bodies”. There is no proposal to further regulate women’s bodies — only a proposal to give women the same freedoms that men already enjoy by removing an unconstitional ordinance.

  5. The Supreme Court of this land has just made a decision that negated women’s rights and set us back 50 years, and there is interest in establishing topless beaches in Evanston? I find this embarrassing.

    1. There is no proposal to created designated areas where women can temporarily enjoy the freedoms that men have all the time.

      There is only a proposal to eliminate the ordinance that creates the inequality in the first place. A proposal to have *fewer* regulations on what women can do with their bodies. A proposal to increase their bodily autonomy.

      The recent RvW decision takes away bodily autonomy — as does the ordinance which is currently on the books.

      1. I don’t want bodily autonomy to bare my breasts on a beach – I want bodily autonomy that enables my body is taken seriously as my own. Breasts are viewed in our society as sexual objects; by allowing them to be exposed on beaches, you’re only satisfying the male agenda by making us spectacles, thus not allowing for genuine female bodily autonomy.

  6. We should be addressing the real obscenity at our beaches, namely too much male flesh. I say under 40, male or female, let ‘em fly. Over 40, male or female, cover ‘em up!

  7. I look with skepticism on Ald. Reid’s proposal. With so many issues to be attended to in Evanston, the fact that Ald. Reid continues to bring this up makes me wonder about his motivation. Such a beach would become a curiosity, attracting men from a broad range of geographic areas, encourage voyeurism and stalking, and create an unhealthy situation for very young boys. Women are comfortable around bare breasts, men have proven that they process this visual experience as erotica.

  8. Devon Reid has nothing but bad ideas for Evanston. As a lifelong Evanstonian, I am appalled that he was even elected. And no as a woman we don’t need to bare our breast on the beach…

  9. How are breasts ever supposed to be de-sexualized if we never give it a chance? Europe is full of topless beaches, and there are bare breasts on TV commercials after 10pm. This town wants to be oh-so-liberal, but when push comes to shove, people break to the safe-and-conservative side, every time!

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