OCEAN CITY — Less than a week after a local woman filed suit in U.S. District Court challenging Ocean City’s ordinance prohibiting women to go topless in the same public areas where men go shirtless, resort officials this week announced they were prepared to go to battle over the issue.
Last June, amid a backlash from concerned residents and visitors over the potential for Ocean City to allow women to go topless on its beaches and Boardwalk, for example, the Mayor and Council passed an emergency ordinance prohibiting the practice. The ordinance was passed in response to a request from local resident Chelsea Eline seeking clarification from the town, the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office and ultimately the Maryland Attorney General on the legality of female bare-chestedness in the same areas in which men can be shirtless.
On Jan. 16, Eline and four other named plaintiffs, through noted civil rights attorney Devon Jacob, filed suit in U.S. District Court, challenging the emergency ordinance passed by the Mayor and Council last June. The suit came as no surprise after Eline, then known as Chelsea Covington, retained Jacobs’ service after the town’s ordinance was passed early last summer.
This week, however, Mayor Rick Meehan said in a statement the town was prepared to defend the challenge to its ordinance filed in federal court and would take any legal steps necessary to prevent its beaches and other public areas from becoming acceptable topless areas for females, evoking the town’s oft-repeated family resort image.