A group called 'Free the Nipple -- Fort Collins' filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday, stating that topless bans violate their First Amendment right to freedom of expression and discriminate against women.
"It's great to know that we're finally on the first steps to getting justice," said Brit Hoagland, who has spearheaded the movement in Fort Collins. "We should be treated equally in the eyes of the law, and that's men, women, LGBTQAA -- that's everybody."
She and Samantha Six are named as plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit alleging Ft. Collins ordinance banning women from baring their breasts is unconstitutional.
"If a man is allowed to do it, so should I," said Six.
On Tuesday, just after their complaint was filed in U.S. District Court, they were flanked by prominent Denver attorneys David Lane and Andy McNulty who said the law and the culture are on their side.
"I can only say that culture has changed over time. Same-sex marriage didn't exist 10 years ago," said Lane, who expects this case will be seen as part of the "Culture Wars" referenced in the recent debate over transgender bathrooms. "The law is the law."
Fort Collins' City Council did consider changing the public nudity ordinance that bans showing the breast last October, but decided to keep it amid public outcry.
"People in this community exercise common sense that decency needs to be upheld in a community of family values," said Tom Russell, a Ft. Collins resident opposed to allowing topless women in public places.
Similar cases challenging topless bans have met with mixed results across the country.
A federal judge in Chicago recently threw out a "Go Topless" case, but McNulty argued that Colorado has stronger protections against gender-base discrimination.
"Colorado has an amendment to the Constitution called the Equal Right Amendment, and in Illinois, they don't have such an amendment," said McNulty.
He pointed out that a federal judge in Missouri recently put a temporary hold on a topless ban.
"Any part of the law that says women are prohibited from doing dot dot dot... does not have a place in our law," said Hoagland.
Six said if they win, she would "absolutely" walk the streets of Ft. Collins topless.
"Where I was allowed to be topless legally, I would appear topless when I decided to do so," she said.
A spokeswoman for the City of Ft. Collins wrote in an email that the City Attorney's office has received the lawsuit but has not yet reviewed it, and she did not respond to our request for comment on the pending litigation.
If Ft. Collins' ordinance is overturned, it would likely result in the toppling of similar ordinances across the state.
Lane said that they are anticipating the case will take about six months to decide, and may be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.