Nantucket Topless Beach Settlement Approved by AG Healey


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Under current state law, women can face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $300 if they go topless in public.

In June, most Boston.com readers said they would visit a topless Nantucket beach. The Associated Press

A bylaw amendment that will allow all people to be topless on Nantucket beaches, regardless of gender, has been approved by Attorney General Maura Healey.

The decision, addressed to City Clerk Nancy Holmes, amends the city’s Coastal Areas and Open Spaces Protection Bylaws to add: “In order to promote equality for all persons, all persons shall be permitted to put on their topless on any public or private beach in the territory. City of Nantucket.

Current state law says only men can be shirtless in public — if women do the same, they can face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $300 , provided a complaint is filed with the police department.

In May, Nantucket residents voted in favor of amending the “Gender Equality on Beaches” Bylaw, or Section 71, which would allow anyone to go topless on any beach in the city. The attorney general based his decision on the city’s majority and consistency with state law.

“We do not discern any conflict between the vote and the Constitution or the laws of the Commonwealth,” the attorney general’s office wrote of the ruling.

In his letter, Healey describes the amendment as a general regulation that does not take effect unless the city has met the appropriate posting and publication requirements. The settlement will enter into force on the same day that these legal obligations are fulfilled. Healey did not provide a specific timeline in his decision.

According to the Nantucket Town Meeting website, the council has recommended phased implementation of the bylaw and notes that the measure is specific to beaches, not their surroundings.

The bylaw amendment was proposed by seventh generation Nantucketer Dorothy Stover. She told the Cape Cod weather in February that she hopes the amendment will help beachgoers feel less safe about their bodies.

“I’m not saying everyone has to be topless,” Stover said. “I want to support body love.”

Healey’s resolve also acknowledges opposition, saying the AG’s office has received “numerous communications” from citizens challenging Section 71 based on the policy: “While we cannot base our decision on the political arguments they raise, the letters have helped to inform our understanding of the issue and its importance to the City. We emphasize that our endorsement in no way implies agreement or disagreement with political views that may have led to the adoption of the regulation.

In June, 74% of Boston.com readers said they would visit a Nantucket beach topless. Many survey respondents agreed with the reasoning that both men and women should be legally allowed to be shirtless.

“I don’t see it as a problem at all. The beaches are already topless, for men. Why is the same right for women not allowed if they want it? A lot of men choose to wear a shirt, or not, on a beach,” said Gwen K. from Brighton. “Women should be able to exercise the same privilege. Any novelty would be short-lived.

Boston

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