SAND SPRINGS — The Sand Springs City Council approved changing the city’s Outraging Public Decency ordinance Wednesday to state that people can’t knowingly engage in any obscene performance in public regardless of their sex.
The action follows a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that some believe cleared the way for women to be topless in public.
The 10th Circuit Court ruling, which has jurisdiction over federal cases in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma, addressed a Fort Collins, Colorado, city ordinance that prohibited women from going topless in public after two women sued the city in 2016 and argued that the rule violated their equal protection rights.
Sand Springs Police Chief Mike Carter said the ordinance replaces language in the previous city ordinance regarding the issue that could have been seen as discriminatory to women following the court ruling.
“I think it’s good for our community to (protect community standards) and also protect women’s rights to not be treated unequally. … It makes it neutral,” Carter said. “We rely on the public to file a third-party complaint. … It will be based on whether you were trying to cause alarm or a disturbance. … We really want to be moderate. … We respect people’s rights and try to do the right thing.”
The council declared an emergency so the ordinance modification is effective immediately.
The new ordinance defines “injurious to pubic morals” to mean exposing genitals in public, wearing a device or costume that mimics the appearance of genitals in public or showing a person’s breast at or below the areola except for people 10 and under, for breastfeeding a child or for a medical emergency.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement that the 10th Circuit’s ruling conflicts with a May ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld an ordinance in Springfield, Missouri, that bans women from exposing their breasts in public, as well as a 2017 ruling in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a topless ban on women in Chicago.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the 7th Circuit’s decision upholding Chicago’s public nudity laws.
The 10th Circuit’s ruling made preliminary conclusions about the Fort Collins ordinance but did not decide the law’s ultimate constitutionality, Hunter’s statement said. Because the Fort Collins ordinance was repealed, the 10th Circuit’s ruling likely can’t be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Following Hunter’s statement Sept. 30, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement saying they will continue to enforce state law on the issue.