Public Decency Law Questioned
I and other lawmakers have heard from a number of constituents recently concerned that a ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals stemming from a case in Colorado might allow women to go topless in public. The ordinance in question was from Fort Collins, Colorado, which banned women exclusively from going topless in public. The Appeals Court ruled that the ordinance violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because the ordinance treated women differently than men. Since the 10th Circuit’s jurisdiction includes Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, the court’s ruling that a city may not enact an ordinance prohibiting women from being topless in public is applicable in all of these states as well. It is important to make the distinction that the lawsuit ruled on by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals did not specifically rule that a woman had a right to go topless in public, but rather that a city did not have the right to enact an ordinance that treated men and women differently. Other lawmakers and I believe Title 21, Section 22, which is outraging public decency, could be applied in this instance. The language of the statute is: Every person who willfully and wrongfully commits any act which grossly injures the person or property of another, or which grossly disturbs the public peace or health, or which openly outrages public decency, including but not limited to urination in a public place, and is injurious to public morals, although no punishment is expressly prescribed therefor by this code, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Of course this may not stop someone wishing to challenge the law. But, I think the court’s ruling begs the question of whether a city could issue an ordinance that no one could go without a shirt in public. In the meantime, I believe that Oklahoma’s public indecency clause will provide a safeguard in this area. If I can be of service to you, or you just want to share your ideas or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me on my cell phone at (918) 680-1218. Avery Frix serves District 13 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7302 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.