New court ruling challenges New Mexico public indecency laws

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A federal court has ruled it’s unconstitutional to ban women from showing their breasts in public. The ruling struck down a law in Colorado. Now, local attorneys say it puts a target on public indecency laws here in New Mexico.

Women in Fort Collins, Colorado can now go topless. “They are just expressing themselves and cooling themselves off,” Albuquerque resident Kumari Westbrook said.

This comes after two women and backers of a national campaign sued the city in 2016 on the basis of free speech and the equal protection clause. “It is so unfair that men can walk around with their shirt off, but women can’t,” Westbrook said.

The case made it all the way to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which ruled in favor of the women in February. Fort Collins formally removed the law from its city code last week.

“It could have an effect on ordinances in Albuquerque that have similar language,” local attorney Eva Blazejewski said.

The Fort Collins ordinance said women could not show their breasts in public. Albuquerque’s public indecency ordinance bans the same thing.

“People could look at a similar Albuquerque ordinance and say that the 10th Circuit just struck something similar down, so the Albuquerque ordinance would not stand up,” Blazejewski said.

Blazejewski said the court ruling sets a precedent. “It is very persuasive that this is the way the courts are leaning, and this is the way the courts of New Mexico should rule,” Blazejewski said.

Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho all have bans, something people are split on. “It was done from the beginning of time, when you look at Adam and Eve,” Albuquerque resident Angela Oliver said.

“Of course I am against it,” Albuquerque resident John Austin said. “I don’t want to see it.”

“I do not think it would be appropriate for children to be seeing that,” Albuquerque resident Jessica Mastronardi said.

Albuquerque did amend its ordinance a few years ago to make an exception for breastfeeding in public. The city said they will review the impact of the ruling on the law here.

New Mexico state law states that indecent exposure consists of exposing primary genitals. There is no mention of breasts.

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