Ocean City, Maryland, can tell topless women to cover up -- but men can keep their shirts off, according to a letter from the Maryland attorney general's office.
An advisory letter from two attorneys with Attorney General Brian Frosh's office cited several previous cases that found it was not a violation of equal protection to prohibit women, and not men, from sunbathing topless.
"It is our view that Maryland courts would hold that prohibiting women from exposing their breasts in public while allowing men to do so under the same circumstances does not violate the federal or state Constitution," the letter said.
The letter, addressed to Worcester County State's Attorney Beau Oglesby, comes after a woman argued that it was her constitutional right to go bare-chested in Ocean City.
After the woman made her request to the city, Ocean City officials advised beach patrol not to approach topless women.
The woman's argument sparked a debate on social media and news about Ocean City's memo to beach patrol garnered attention throughout the region.
On Saturday, the Ocean City Council responded by passing an emergency ordinance to prohibit public nudity or states of nudity.
“This issue has statewide implications and unfortunately has created division and unrest in our community during our busiest time of the year. Individuals on both sides hold passionate and sincere beliefs in their positions. However, having reviewed and considered the Advice Letter, I agree with its conclusions. My Office will continue to work with the Ocean City Police Department and the Town of Ocean City as this issue develops further.”
“We are pleased to see the Attorney General’s Office has advised that prohibiting topless women sunbathing is not a violation of equal protection,” Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said.