SPRINGFIELD, MO – The ACLU of Missouri is pleased that a court has agreed to permanently eradicate Springfield’s 2015 discriminatory and unconstitutional ordinance, which made it illegal for women to show any portion of their breasts beneath the areola, but not men.
On September 15, the court entered a consent judgement that barred enforcement of the 2015 Springfield ordinance, making it illegal for any city employee to initiate, threaten, or pursue any charges of violating the 2015 ordinance.
“The city has no reason to treat people differently based on their sex other than that society has always done so,” said plaintiff Jessica Lawson. “In a place where we are all supposed to be treated as equals, that should not be good enough.”
The case started in September 2015 when in a 5-4 vote, the Springfield City Council passed a stricter indecent exposure law following a September rally by “Free the Nipple.” In October 2015 the ACLU of Missouri, on behalf of Free the Nipple, sued the city based on the new ordinance that made it illegal for women to show any portion of their breasts beneath the areola as an act of protest, but not men.
“This decision is step in the right direction for the city of Springfield,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “While we are disappointed the March 2016 sex discriminatory ordinance currently stands, elected officials will now think twice before treating men and women’s bodies differently under the law.”
In January 2016, a federal judge ordered a temporary injunction in the lawsuit, which made the new, stricter indecent exposure ordinance unenforceable. In March 2016 the Springfield City Council voted 5-1 to revert back to the original law, which again allowed men to show their nipples but not women.
In May 2016, the ACLU of Missouri filed a second amended complaint, on behalf of Free the Nipple to declare the original and current indecent exposure law unconstitutional and to prohibit its enforcement.