By Madeleine Ahlbrecht
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board unanimously voted in favor of repealing its Proper Attire Required ordinance (PB 2-21) during a Wednesday meeting. This discussion had been tabled from a July 16 Park Board meeting.
The conversation about the nudity ordinance was prompted by an incident of alleged public nudity in July at a Golden Valley beach and the subsequent media response.
PB 2-21 states, “No person ten (10) years of age or older shall intentionally expose his or her own genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breast below the top of the areola, with less than a fully opaque covering in or upon any park or parkway, as defined in PB1-1. This provision does not apply to theatrical, musical, or other artistic performances upon any park or parkway where no alcoholic beverages are sold.”
Since no state or city law explicitly forbids toplessness, the only place in Minneapolis where it was illegal for females to be topless was in parks and on parkways. Minneapolis resident Helena Howard drew attention to this over the summer by biking topless throughout the city and avoiding parks and parkways, The Minnesota Sun reported.
According to Ms. Alana Mosley, the Minneapolis Park Board legal counsel, PB 2-21 contains discriminatory language which targets female breasts, lacks an exemption for breastfeeding, and also includes an artistic performance exemption that “is not needed and has been abused in the past.”
Ms. Mosley stressed that the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office already had adopted a new policy to not prosecute women charged with indecent exposure “if the only aspect to it is a woman is topless. If there is more lewd behavior, in terms of sexual behavior or conduct that is seeking attention, then it might bring charges.”
Public criticism from the last several years over prosecuting charges of toplessness served as the catalyst for that policy at the attorney’s office.
Commissioner Steffanie Musich argued for the repeal of the ordinance because city and state law will still prohibit lewd behavior.
“When we’ve discussed ordinances previous to this that were superseded by state law, we’ve just repealed the ordinance because there are laws on the books that officers can utilize if someone is behaving inappropriately in a park. This seems to me to be the same thing and that we would not need to implement a park rule or modify the ordinance,” she said.
Additionally, Commissioner Londel French and Commissioner Chris Meyer appealed to the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which requires equal application of the law of all citizens. They argued that an ordinance that has certain requirements of women (in this circumstance, wearing shirts at public parks to cover their breasts) but not of men, is unconstitutional.
The Minneapolis Park Board voted unanimously in a 9-0 decision to repeal PB 2-21.
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Madeleine Albrecht is a young professional and freelance writer in the Twin Cities.
Photo “Minneapolis Park” by Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.