Ocean City makes go­ing top­less il­le­gal on beaches

Law passed af­ter cops di­rected not to ticket seminude bathers

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY AN­DREW BLAKE

Law­mak­ers in Ocean City, Mary­land, unan­i­mously passed an emer­gency or­di­nance Satur­day pro­hibit­ing pub­lic nu­dity in the beach re­sort town af­ter a law en­force­ment memo last week di­rect­ing beach pa­trol of­fi­cers not to cite top­less women went vi­ral.

The or­di­nance states “there is no con­sti­tu­tional right for an in­di­vid­ual to ap­pear in pub­lic nude or in a state of nu­dity,” Ocean City an­nounced on its of­fi­cial web­site. “What­ever per­sonal right one has to be nude or in a state of nu­dity, that right be­comes sub­ject to govern­ment in­ter­est and reg­u­la­tion when one seeks to ex­er­cise it in pub­lic.”

The or­di­nance took ef­fect im­me­di­ately, and vi­o­la­tors — any­one show­ing “the fe­male breast with less than a fully opaque cov­er­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal Fox af­fil­i­ate — are sub­ject to a fine of up to $1,000.

“This or­di­nance pro­vides clar­ity as to the po­si­tion of the Town of Ocean City, that we will not al­low women to be top­less on our beach or on any pub­lic prop­erty within city lim­its,” Ocean City Mayor Richard Mee­han said Satur­day on his Face­book page.

Ocean City of­fi­cials strug­gled to ex­plain their stance on top­less­ness this week af­ter the town’s beach pa­trol is­sued a memo Tues­day con­cern­ing its “of­fi­cial pro­ce­dure for top­less fe­males on the beaches of Ocean City.”

“There has been a re­cent re­quest to the Worces­ter County State’s At­tor­ney by a woman who wants to be able to sun­bath [sic] on the Ocean City beaches with­out a top,” the memo said. “We will not ap­proach the top­less woman, even if re­quested to do so by the com­plainant or other beach pa­trons” pend­ing in­put from the city coun­cil, mayor and state of­fi­cials.

Mr. Mee­han said he has re­ceived “hun­dreds of calls and emails from res­i­dents and vis­i­tors, ex­press­ing their con­cerns over this is­sue,” the Del­marva Now web­site re­ported Satur­day.

“Each year, thou­sands of fam­i­lies visit our beach to re­lax in an at­mos­phere free of this type of ac­tiv­ity. We re­spect their rights,” he said. “We will not al­low women to be top­less on our beach or on any pub­lic prop­erty within the city lim­its. We have never been a top­less beach, and we will not be­come a top­less beach.”

The or­di­nance passed Satur­day also states that the “equal pro­tec­tion clause does not de­mand that things that are dif­fer­ent in fact be treated the same in law, nor that a govern­ment pre­tend there are no phys­i­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween men and women,” ac­cord­ing to the Ocean City web­site.

The or­di­nance does not ap­ply to breast­feed­ing, an Ocean City spokesper­son told Del­marva Now.

The Mary­land Con­sti­tu­tion ar­guably al­lows men and women to be top­less, as Ar­ti­cle 46 states that a law can­not give pref­er­en­tial treat­ment based on sex or gen­der, the web­site re­ported.

The Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice has not yet weighed in on the topic, but Mr. Mee­han said the town or­di­nance would trump the state’s de­ci­sion if An­napo­lis says women can go top­less, Del­marva Now re­ported.

“This or­der would still ap­ply in the Town of Ocean City un­less it were chal­lenged in court,” Mr. Mee­han said Satur­day. “This is the or­di­nance that we’re go­ing to en­force in the town.”

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