SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The city of Springfield is moving forward with another indecent exposure ordinance, this time hoping to avoid a similar lawsuit like the one it now faces.
The Plans and Policies committee spent less than an half hour discussing a new ordinance to replace another which has caused controversy over the last several months for city council.
“This certainly is a huge step forward from what the current law is right now because we do not have an indecent exposure ordinance,” said Craig Hosmer. Hosmer.
Some city leaders hope a newer version of an old indecent exposure ordinance will allow them to move on from a battle over public nudity.
“Where does this put us with the ACLU?” asked Councilman Craig Fishel.
“We hope that if this is passed that would remove the lawsuit and we can move on,” answered City Attorney Dan Wichmer.
The ordinance is written like the original restricting female toplessness and some restrictions for men with an exception to public nudity protected by the Constitution.
“That reinstates what we’ve had previously.”
Last August, a group protested the city’s indecent exposure policy over accusations of gender inequality. The council then passed a stricter policy in September which was followed up by a lawsuit from the ACLU on behalf of Jessica Lawson and others. Earlier this year, an injunction was put in place bringing us to today.
“The goal that we have with ‘Free the Nipple’ is to have a law put in place that is equal,” said Lawson.
“I have always been for the stricter which is to basically have a shirt on,” explained Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky.
Fulnecky said the city is backing down instead of fighting.
“The ACLU is going city by city trying to change laws that lawmakers make.”
“Now Springfield is nationally known for being sexist, for being gender biased towards females because of this,” said Lawson.
The proposed law requires women to cover the areola and nipple removing the stricter changes adopted in September.
“It says that you can have pasties on and still be in Springfield,” said Fulnecky.
Lawson said it is a political win but it is not over.
“Everybody knows the cats out of the bag and now Springfield is retracting what they had done because they are embarrassed.”
The full ordinance has been added to the council agenda for next week. That meeting is scheduled for 6:30 on February 22, 2016, at the historic city hall.