A federal judge will decide whether to halt Ocean City’s prohibition of women going topless at the beach until a lawsuit is resolved over the ban.

Five women sued the city in January after its leaders passed an emergency ordinance banning public nudity.


The women are asking a federal judge to stop the town from enforcing its ban until they can resolve their lawsuit. They argued over the injunction Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

“I’ve never heard of somebody being harmed at the beach by the female breast,” Devon Jacob, an attorney for the women, told the judge.

Debate began years ago when Chelsea Eline, a freedom activist who runs a blog called “Breasts Are Healthy,” sought to clarify the town policy on bare-chestedness. Officials sought an opinion from the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, which inspired chatter online that Ocean City was now a topless beach.

Wandering buskers and topless sunbathers take Ocean City to court

As the summer season gets underway, Ocean City tries to hang on to its family-friendly past even as a group of women seek to go topless on the beach and performers celebrate their victory over a city that tried to regulate how they plied the boardwalk.

The Town Council enacted the emergency ordinance banning “the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple.”

Council members received emails, letters and phone calls from Ocean City residents who support the prohibition, Bruce Bright, an attorney representing the city, told the judge.

U.S. District Judge James Bredar said he would rule on the injunction in coming days. Arguments have not yet been scheduled in the lawsuit.