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FORT COLLINS — The northern Colorado college town of Fort Collins has retained its ban on women going topless, rejecting a growing movement to remove such indecency laws.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to keep a law that prohibits the display of female breasts. The ordinance does not prohibit men from going shirtless, prompting complaints about gender bias.
The hometown of Colorado State University did amend its indecency code to allow public breastfeeding. But otherwise it remains a $250 fine for a woman over the age of 10 to display her breast "below the top of the nipple."
"It just doesn't seem right" to allow female toplessness, said Councilman Ray Martinez. "People are going to say, we go to Fort Collins and run around topless. And I don't want that."
Other cities, including Denver, New York and the nearby college town of Boulder, have removed all gender-specific language from indecency codes. The city of Chicago is facing a federal lawsuit from a woman challenging as discriminatory her $150 fine for participating in a 2014 "Go Topless Day" protest near Lake Michigan.
Indecency codes are largely local, with very few states having laws on the books banning female breast exposure.
Supporters of the Fort Collins effort said it wouldn't lead to an explosion of women going topless in public. They called the proposal a simple attempt to remove gender bias from a law that isn't enforced anyway. Fort Collins officials say they're not sure of the last time any woman was charged with indecency for displaying her breasts in public.
"Equal but different is not really equal," said Samantha Six, who pushed for the change.
But opponents packed Tuesday's hearing to warn of increased sexual assaults, even car accidents, if women were allowed to display their breasts.
"Allowing women to dress or undress the same as men doesn't create equality," said resident Katie Peters.
Another resident voicing a common opinion in the room said that college women in Fort Collins could be damaged by having a topless photo taken and posted online.
"We have the freedom to go topless at home," David Harris said.
Fort Collins, a city of 150,000 about 60 miles north of Denver, gained national attention in 1989 when Debbie Duz Donuts, a doughnut shop with topless waitresses, opened for business. Protesters picketed the shop, which closed after several months.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt