Jersey City councilman will continue to pursue topless option in city’s anti-obscenity law

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In an interview, Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon explained that he will continue to try and persuade his colleagues to allow women the option to bear their breasts in public as the city’s anti-obscenity laws are updated. 

The new anti-obscenity law, discussed during a first reading last night, comes nearly six months after the city cited the city’s current obscenity law, on the books since the 1980s, to prevent a performance by local burlesque performer Lillian Bustle.

According to Solomon, the bill still contains two of three provisions that he believes are critical to provide protections for free speech and LGBTQ rights and therefore doesn’t want to hold up the new bill’s passage.

We asked him on-camera about the decision by the city to withdraw the provision to allow women to be able to walk topless in Jersey City.

“There’s no plan to bring it back immediately, I think my position is very clear that we should have gender-neutral, LGBTQ friendly language in the bill. I will keep talking to my colleagues if at some point we can’t get five council colleagues to agree I would certainly push it forward. The mayor has expressed his support for this provision, but there is no immediate plan to bring it back at this time,” Solomon said.

We then asked the councilman about the new plan’s provisions.

“This bill has two really important and good things. The first is that it has strong protections for free speech; the previous obscenity law did not have those protections,” he added.

“The second thing it removes some restrictions of people’s private sex lives, restrictions that were frankly unenforceable but shouldn’t have been on the books. The thing that it does not have that the previous version had back in the spring is gender-neutral definition of nudity; it reverts to the old definition which doesn’t include female breasts. That’s not something I wanted to do, but to get this bill passed I thought we had to go back to that old definition.”

We also asked what were some of the objections council members expressed about the topless option.

“I think the concern was that if you repeal this ordinance and allow for this gender-neutral language of nudity that you would see toplessness everywhere. I did not share those concerns, I made the argument that New York City has had legalized toplessness since the 1990s and I think that New York isn’t overrun by people who are topless. Instead it allows for language that is gender-neutral and trans-friendly,” Solomon explained.

“Ultimately we weren’t able to get enough council people to agree to that position, or to agree with me. I’m going to keep saying that I think this is the right thing to do but for now I do want to move forward because there are those two very important and good parts of the bill that I don’t want to get held up in the conversation right now.”

The first reading of the revised ordinance passed 6-2, with Councilmen Rich Boggiano and Michael Yun voting no. Councilman-at-Large Danny Rivera was absent.