Worcester County States Attorney Beau Oglesby receives an advisory letter from the Maryland attorney general’s office, which was signed by two lawyers in the attorney general’s office. The letter, dated Wednesday – not an opinion of Attorney General Brian Frosh – included citing of several judicial decisions finding that women and men have different body types and asking women to not expose their breasts in public places does not violate the Constitution.
It took the office nearly a year to respond to a request from Chelsea Handler, an advocate for “normalizing female bare-chestedness.” Handler, along with the residents of the beach resort town asked for the attorney general’s office opinion on the matter.Captain Butch Arbin, Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain, issued a memo ordering lifeguards and officials not to approach topless female sunbathers, only to document the incident.
Some people considered the memo as an endorsement of toplessness, calling for Ocean City officials to respond with an emergency measure to ban female bare-chestedness.
Oglesby and Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan both agree with the conclusion from the attorney general’s office.
“It does support our position and hopefully it’ll put this issue to rest and allow us to move forward,” Meehan said. “Our position has always been the same: We are not a topless beach, we do not intend to become a topless beach.”
The attorneys, Adam D. Snyder and Sandra Benson, who signed the letter, noted that public opinion on such matters could change very quickly.
“And when public sensibilities begin to change, they can change quickly,” the letter said. “We also recognize that what is seen as ‘indecent’ can depend on context. Law enforcement officials may consider that context when exercising their enforcement discretion and thus are best positioned to ensure that Maryland’s indecency laws are applied no more broadly than public sensibilities require.”
The advice excludes mothers, who are breast-feeding their children since they are protected under state law.