Attorney General offers advice on Topless in OC
The Worcester County State's Attorney has received a letter of advice from the Office of the Attorney General about the application of Maryland's indecent exposure law. The letter, which was requested when the Worcester County State's Attorney's Office received a request from a woman who believed it was her constitutional right to be bare-chested on Ocean City's beach, states that "it is our view that Maryland courts would hold that prohibiting women from exposing their breast in public while allowing men to do so under the same circumstances does not violate the Federal or State Constitution.
Ocean City officials, who passed an emergency ordinance on Saturday, June 10, to prevent female toplessness in public areas, were delighted about the letter. "We are pleased to see the Attorney General's Office has advised that prohibiting topless women sunbathing is not a violation of equal protection," commented Mayor Rick Meehan. "We have a responsibility to protect the rights of thousands of families who visit our beach and Boardwalk each summer season, and the letter of advice agreed with our position."
Also satisfied with the advice was Worcester County States Attorney Beau Oglesby. "The Office of The Attorney General has provided me with a well-reasoned and comprehensive analysis of this legal question," commented Oglesby. "This issue has statewide implications and unfortunately has created division and unrest in our community during our busiest time of the year. Individuals on both sides hold passionate and sincere beliefs in their positions. However, having reviewed and considered the Advice Letter, I agree with its conclusions. My Office will continue to work with the Ocean City Police Department and the Town of Ocean City as this issue develops further."
The advice letter mentions numerous court findings where the constitutionality of indecency statutes applied to topless women, but not men, on the grounds that there are "real physical differences" between men and women. Further, it noted (United States v. Biocic) "the important government interest is the widely recognized one of protecting the moral sensibilities of that substantial segment of society that still does not want to be exposed willy-nilly to public displays of various portions of their fellow citizens' anatomies that traditionally in this society have been regarded as erogenous zones. These still include (whether justifiably or not in the eyes of all) the female, but not the male, breast.