NEW YORK — In a city as big as the Big Apple, locals rarely bat an eye at the weird and wacky. And yet, New Yorkers were falling all over themselves as Moira Johnston strolled through bustling Union Square Park enjoying the pleasant weather last weekend.
So why did the 29-year-old decide to walk out her front door wearing nothing but a pair of jeans and sandals?
“To raise awareness that it’s legal for a woman to be topless anywhere a guy can be without a shirt since 1992 here in New York state,” Johnston told Atisha Paulson, a roving photographer who first captured this image and sparked the story.
Indeed it is legal for women to be topless in New York, attorney Lisa Bloom told CNN — much to her own disbelief.
“Just so long as it’s not sexualized and as long as it’s not for a commercial purpose, it is legal for a woman to be topless in New York,” Bloom said. “I was shocked to find out that was the case.”
As it turns out, the New York state court of appeals ruled in 1992 that women can go topless in public unless they are “engaged in commerce.” That means Hooters can’t send a group of women out with bare breasts to advertise their restaurant, Bloom said.
According to Bloom, this movement began when a group of women made the point that prohibiting women from taking off their tops in public places where it was legal for men to do the same was sexual discrimination.
“Shock of all shocks, they won that case in the appellate court,” Bloom said.
Johnston said she first started going topless in a yoga studio. And now that she’s taken her bare breasts to the streets, she has no plan of covering up for anyone but Mother Nature.
“For me, it’s just a matter of comfort,” Johnston said. “If it’s nice outside, sometimes it’s nice to be topless.”
There has been a ruling at a Boulder court allowing women to go topless in that city, but there has not been a state-wide ruling. In fact, last month there was a public outcry about a woman breastfeeding in public, even though that practice is legal.