overhead beach shot

(Sept. 14, 2018) U.S. District Court proceedings begin next Friday in Baltimore for a federal civil suit filed in January challenging an Ocean City ordinance prohibiting female toplessness in public.

In July, civil rights attorney Devon Jacob, representing Eastern Shore resident Chelsea Eline and four other plaintiffs, filed for a preliminary injunction to end the restriction pending the lawsuit’s resolution, contending that the case could drag out for years depending on appeals.

In 2016, Eline, formerly Chelsea Covington, wrote to then-Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby seeking clarity about the legality of female bare-chestedness in public places across the state.

Last summer, as Oglesby awaited a legal opinion from the Maryland Attorney General’s office, the topic gained national media attention after a departmental memo from beach patrol Capt. Butch Arbin came to light instructing staff to document, but not take action, if alerted to women sunbathing topless.

In response to that publicity, the city council last June passed an emergency ordinance prohibiting females from baring their breasts in public.

The ordinance from last June prohibits females from exposing their breasts with less than a fully opaque covering on the area immediately below the top of the areola within the city limits of Ocean City. Violations of the municipal infraction are subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

The U.S. District Court on Aug. 23 denied the plaintiff’s request for preliminary injunctive relief.

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