Beachgoers in Ocean City, Md. this summer may see more topless women sunbathing there than they have in the past.
Beach Patrol employees have been instructed not to scold or approach topless women — even if other beach visitors ask them to do so, WBOC-TV, a local CBS affiliate, reports. Employees should record complaints of toplessness, Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin said in a memo sent out on Tuesday, but should not take further action.
The change comes after Chelsea Covington, a local advocate for normalizing toplessness, asked the state’s attorney for Worcester County to examine the law last year. Since then, the Worcester County Attorney General Beau Oglesby has turned the matter over to the Maryland attorney general, who has not issued an opinion on the law, according to WBOC.
“For the 44 years I've been guarding the beach in Ocean City, when we'd see people topless on the beach we would just tell them, 'Hey, you can't do that,'” Arbin told the news station. “But since this formal request from someone and since the Maryland Attorney General's Office hasn't issued their opinion on it, we don't feel like we can tell people not to sunbathe topless.”
The city, for its part, is not happy with the new policy. A spokesperson for Ocean City told WJZ, another local news station, that the mayor and city council are "strongly opposed" and looking into legal actions to prevent women from going topless on the beach.