OCEAN CITY — The other shoe dropped over the weekend when the Maryland woman who first challenged the legality of women going topless in the same areas where men are allowed to go shirtless retained a nationally known civil rights attorney to challenge Ocean City’s recently passed ordinance prohibiting the act.
On Thursday, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office issued a long-awaited opinion on the issue of females allowed to go topless in the same areas where men are allowed to go shirtless, essentially opining the emergency ordinance passed by the Mayor and Council on June 10 prohibiting women from going topless in public areas including the beach and Boardwalk, for example, was not unconstitutional. The Mayor and Council enacted the emergency ordinance while awaiting the Maryland Office of the Attorney General (OAG) opinion with the start of the summer season arriving and at least a handful of women exercising their perceived rights to go topless on the beach.
Last August, at the request of Maryland resident Chelsea Covington, Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby reached out to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office seeking an opinion on the legality of women going topless in the same public areas where men are allowed to go shirtless. Covington, an advocate for female bare-chestedness in public through the TopFreedom initiative, often goes topless in public places in Maryland including Ocean City and Assateague, for example.
Amid a backlash from concerned residents and visitors over the potential for Ocean City to allow women to go topless, a reaction only accelerated by an Ocean City Beach Patrol directive to staffers to carefully document complaints but not to approach women who exercise their perceived rights, the Mayor and Council passed the ordinance effective immediately after its adoption on June 10. Less than a week later, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office issued its letter of advice, basically upholding the constitutionality of the town’s emergency ordinance.