CRIER: A group of Florida women known as the “top-free 10” are suing for the right to bear their breasts in public. They say strippers are allowed to, and they say breast-feeding mothers are allowed to, and they say men are allowed to, and they want the same rights.
Quote-”Women and girls have the same liberty interests as men and boys to be top free. In other words, bare breasted without fear of arrest, criminal prosecution and imprisonment. The right to be top free involves personal decisions relating to the mode of dress, bodily integrity, personal expression, child rearing and a plethora of other important liberty interests.”
Florida law makes it a crime to go topless and it’s punishable by up to a year in prison. So, does the Constitution protect our right to bare breasts? Well, OK. Joining me now is Mark Tietig. He’s the attorney who filed suit on behalf of the “top-free 10”. Also joining me are two of the plaintiffs in the case, Jan Frandsen and her 14-year-old daughter Althea.
This is a great suit, Jan. You know that there are going to be a lot of people smiling about this. You’re serious?
JAN FRANDSEN, SUING FOR RIGHT TO GO TOPLESS: I’m very serious. I’m -
” that is why I want people to know about it and I want them to know I’m very serious. This is an equal rights thing situation where that men, for their own comfort, can remove their shirt when they please, if they’re mowing the lawn, gardening, and yet, if a woman does the same thing so that she doesn’t end up with heat exhaustion that she can be arrested and thrown in jail for that.
CRIER: OK. Well, you know the difference between bare breasted and an itty-bitty, teeny-weeny polka dot bikini is not much, so if you’re talking about heat exhaustion, that doesn’t sound like a very good reason. J. FRANDSEN: Well it is a good reason. I mean I stopped mowing the lawn for that reason... CRIER: But you can... (CROSSTALK) CRIER: ... I mean you can wear anything that simply... (CROSSTALK) CRIER: ... I mean pardon my-this is cable-you know covers the nipples and you’re not in violation. J. FRANDSEN: Yes, you are in violation. The only... CRIER: No you’re not. J. FRANDSEN: ... the only-you haven’t read the ordinance, but the fact is, is the portion under your armpit below the areola is also illegal... CRIER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) J. FRANDSEN: ... any portion of your breast under the bikini that might show through is illegal. The only part of the breast is above the areola and the center part. They’ve like carved up the breast and said this piece is OK, even though in movies and things, this is the part that they use to be, you know, erotic. CRIER: OK. Mark, I’ve got to say the Florida legislator has too much time on its hands to draft this kind of legislation. This suit has been filed and dismissed before. Why do you think you’re going to be successful this time? MARK TIETIG, TOPLESS LAWSUIT ATTORNEY: The suit was filed before under the Florida Constitution. Now it’s under the United States Constitution under the 14th Amendment, equal protection clause and under the due process clause and this will be successful this time because the public morass have changed and the courts are recognizing that they’re looking with great disfavor on any sort of sexual discrimination and discrimination based even on sexual orientation these days. CRIER: Athela, why is this so important to you? ATHELA FRANDSEN, SUING FOR RIGHT TO GO TOPLESS: Well, when I was like nine I remember when we had an older car that got really hot when it got-when it sat for a while and then we got in and I could take my shirt off and cool down and not get really, really hot, and then I realized once I turned 10 that I couldn’t do that any more. And once I turned 10, I cried for like a couple of days afterwards off and on because I didn’t have the same rights as boys any more. CRIER: When is your birthday? A. FRANDSEN: July 22. CRIER: OK. So you are right in the middle of summer, you turned 10; you couldn’t take your shirt off any more. Do you want to do that? I mean at your age right now would you go to school, decide you’re hot on the playground and take off your shirt? A. FRANDSEN: Yes, I would. CRIER: You would even with-you know that kids are going to laugh and make fun and the boys are going to make cracks and all that. Whether that’s right or wrong, that is the world. You wouldn’t mind? A. FRANDSEN: Well, once people get used to breasts I don’t think they’ll do that as much any more either. CRIER: OK. A. FRANDSEN: But no, I wouldn’t-I’d try not to notice. It’d be-it’s important enough to me. CRIER: OK. Jan, how did this become a cause worth fighting for, if you will? There are a lot of issues on the planet, a lot of things to worry about, and this could be one, but why? J. FRANDSEN: Because this goes to the heart of the discrimination. This is government-sanctioned discrimination against women. It goes to the fact that a man, he doesn’t think twice about taking off his shirt if he gets hot. I have to think about it. I have to think about the clothes I buy just in case that there might be a little bit of coloration from the nipples showing through. You know, women have to do all those things, and they have to worry about it. This is not just a top-free issue. This is about other discriminations that take place. Once you remove this kind of thing from the laws where it is placed into the law, all kinds of other discrimination can be handled as well. TIETIG: Judge Crier, it might be important for you to realize that the-this-these laws are the last laws on the books in Florida that criminalizes women for conduct for just being women. CRIER: Well, I’ll tell you, Mark, I agree completely that criminalizing this is a bit of nonsense and finding it as a bit of nonsense. The whole thing is ridiculous. But I don’t know that the country is quite ready, given the fact that kids-little girls of eight are far too grown up. I don’t know that we all need to be running around topless. But that’s another story. Mark Tietig, Jan Frandsen and Althea Frandsen, keep us posted on the suit. Thanks for joining us. TIETIG: Thank you. J. FRANDSEN: We will and thank you. A. FRANDSEN: Thank you for having us.