What: Boulder City Council meeting
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway
For the first time, it might soon be illegal for women in Boulder to go topless in public.
A public-nudity law being considered by the Boulder City Council on Tuesday night would expand the definition of being naked to include exposing the female nipple, and it would make it a municipal offense to be naked in public places or view.
Since the 1980s, Boulder's only local ordinance banning public nudity has been specific to Coot Lake, an area which was known in the 1970s and 1980s as a place to swim and sunbathe in the nude. That ordinance didn't include toplessness.
After years of debate about how to deal with people who streak as a prank or participate in events like the annual World Naked Bike Ride and the Halloween night Naked Pumpkin Run, Boulder is now seeking to expand the ban on public nudity to the entire city, while also expanding its definition of nudity.
The "Public Nudity Prohibited" ordinance would apply to anyone older than 10 who exposes any portion of his or her private parts, including the areola of a female breast.
Tickets would carry a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail.
The rules would not apply to people who enjoy going au naturale inside their own homes -- so long as it's not obvious to passers-by -- or sunbathers in backyards. Women who are breastfeeding in public would also be exempt, along with people in dressing rooms, shower rooms, bathrooms or other enclosed areas where nudity is permitted.
Officials say the change is needed to give police more options when it comes to ticketing or arresting those who go naked.
"Public displays of nudity at events and in crowds have the tendency to create a crowd mentality that can lead to other law-enforcement problems," a city memo about the ordinance reads. "If left unchecked, these issues will often lead to other disorder-type crimes, as the crowd believes that disorder is the norm, especially in circumstances where alcohol is consumed."
Now, officers have only state laws to fall back on, and a conviction under the more serious indecent exposure law can result in mandatory registration as a sex offender.
"Certainly, there are some circumstances that we don't think rise to that level," said Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner.
Beckner, who helped write the proposed ordinance, said that having a local law for lesser crimes would "help us deal with the issue when we have to deal with it."
He said he doesn't think there are many legitimate reasons to be naked in public places, including during the World Naked Bike Ride, in which some participants protest the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
"I just don't buy the argument that being naked is political speech," Beckner said.
Judd Golden, chairman of the Boulder County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, disagreed and said that the law would go too far.
"They are deciding that anyone who is in a state of undress must be committing a crime," Golden said.
He said people who are naked for some sort of sexual purpose, such as exposing themselves to children, are committing a crime that's already covered under state laws. Other people, like streakers who run across sports fields, people who ride bicycles naked or run nude on Halloween, should be arrested or ticketed based on their behavior -- not because of a lack of clothing, Golden said.
"Let's look at the actual conduct and decide if there is a public interest in criminalizing that or not," Golden said. "This non-sexual prankster stuff shouldn't be against the law."
City Councilman Ken Wilson said the ACLU shouldn't have a problem with the ordinance, since the city is seeking to reduce the possible penalties for streakers and naked protesters.
"I don't see why they would focus on this," Wilson said. "It really just makes public nudity a lesser offense."
He said he expects the ordinance to easily gain approval by the council, which likely won't discuss the item during Tuesday's first reading. The ordinance would have to pass a second reading later on, which would include a public hearing.
"I think it's a good tool that the police can use," Wilson said. "It's a lot less severe ticket and offense than a state indecent exposure" arrest.
Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett also supports the measure.
Garnett has already proposed legislation that would make streaking, public urination and other "Pumpkin Run-type behavior" in Colorado a petty offense rather than a class 1 misdemeanor that forces people to register as sex offenders.
If the Legislature passes Garnett's proposal to remove the acts from the state's indecent exposure law and enforce them under its public indecency law, most naked runners and bike riders would face a fine instead.
Garnett said a local ordinance would help give police officers something more appropriate to ticket under.
He quipped that he is "not aware of a pervasive problem of toplessness in Boulder."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or email@example.com.