Is it legal to go topless in Austin?

Sunday is National Go Topless Day. What, your calendar wasn’t already marked?

According to GoTopless.org, the website of an organization dedicated to something that we shouldn’t need to explain, Go Topless Day “always falls at the Sunday closest to Women’s Equality Day, Aug 26. It is indeed on Aug 26, 1920 that women earned their right to vote on the basis of Gender Equality.” The organization says that “the right to go topless for women is based on gender equality as their right to vote once was.”

22 AUGUST 2010- Topless women pose for pictures holding signs after a march and Go Topless protest held in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, August 22, 2010. (American-Statesman/Rodolfo Gonzalez) 0905summernews

22 AUGUST 2010- Topless women pose for pictures holding signs after a march and Go Topless protest held in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, August 22, 2010. (American-Statesman/Rodolfo Gonzalez) 0905summernews

A map of the U.S. on the website labels Texas as a “top freedom” state and Austin as a “topless ‘tested'” city. Anyone who’s been around the Live Music Capital of the World for a significant amount of time knows that, yes, a bare breast isn’t much to bat an eyelash at. Hippie Hollow, Austin’s one and only nude park, is a legendary, clothing-optional swimming spot. But that lakeside locale takes a laissez-faire stance on bottoms, too. Also, there has been more than one protest in Austin over the years that decried Texas gun laws by encouraging open shirts.

We dipped into the Statesman archives to get the skinny on the topless rules for women and nudity in general in Austin.

• In a 2006 column, Statesman answer lady Jane Grieg told an unwilling peeping Tom with immodest neighbors that such behavior is not illegal. “There is no ordinance against appearing in various stages of undress or topless at a bay window or anywhere else in Austin,” Greig wrote. “State law prohibits reckless exposure of other bodily areas (e.g., genitalia, but female breasts are not genitalia).” A 2004 article about a naked bike ride points out that Austin “has no local public nudity laws.”

• Is someone wearing body paint nude? A 2013 article about the subject as it relates to adult-oriented businesses didn’t draw a definitive conclusion:

“So would restaurant waitresses wearing only body paint run afoul of Austin’s adult-oriented businesses ordinances? That’s a gray area. ‘The City of Austin has not addressed this type of situation in the past,’ city spokeswoman Samantha Park said in a statement. ‘Every case has different circumstances, so it isn’t appropriate to speculate how we would handle a hypothetical case.'”

• A 2005 Austin Chronicle article provides a little less support for public displays of toplessness: “Public lewdness, which applies when a person intentionally commits an act of sexual contact in a public place, could also come into play if going topless leads to more heated action.” Additionally, the Chronicle pointed out that Texas courts have upheld disorderly conduct convictions for women going sans shirt.

And remember, if you’re planning on feeling your Lady Godiva fantasy this weekend, none of this serves as official legal advice.

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