Commission: It’s a problem if only women are required to cover their chests

The Equity and Empowerment Commission showed support for updating the city’s public nudity ordinance on Thursday.

Credit: Photo by Francois Olwage on Unsplash

City officials have been debating on removing language from the city code “Public Nudity; Urinating or Defecating in Public” that requires females to cover their breasts and nipples.

The move to change the ordinance has made headlines, and continues to do so as it winds its way through a longer than usual legislative process. Eighth Ward’s City Council member Devon Reid is a driving force to update the ordinance. He argues that requiring women to cover their nipples but not men is sexist.

This past week, it landed at the Equity and Empowerment Commission, which discussed the gender equity issue of the ordinance and pushed back on conventional ideas. The commission’s purpose is to remove inequities in all city practices, programs and services.

The path of the city discussion

The discussions began in August with the Parks and Recreation Board

“The fact that this language specifically says female breast is problematic,” Reid said during Thursday’s Equity and Empowerment Commission meeting.

The Human Resources Committee took over the conversation last week. It consulted the city’s law department to see if the city could be sued for discrimination over the ordinance. The law department assured the committee that the ordinance does not violate the Illinois Constitution and that the city would be able to defend the ordinance, explained City Attorney Nicholas Cummings in a memo.

If the city decides to remove language prohibiting the exposure of women’s nipples, Cummings recommended that the city add limitations of sexual and lewd behavior to the ordinance.

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