Human Service Committee approves using non-gendered language in public nudity ordinance, codifying Miranda Rights


Daily file photo by Jacob Wendler

Evanston Human Service Committee generally meets the first Monday of each month.

Kristen Axtman, Reporter

The Evanston Human Services Committee approved a motion to modify Evanston’s public nudity ordinance Monday night. The decision will be forwarded to City Council for approval in a month.

The committee changed the definition of public nudity in the ordinance to prohibit the showing of human genitals, pubic areas or buttocks. The ordinance previously prohibited showing “female breast with less than a fully opaque covering…below the top of the nipple.”

“[The amendment] reduces our legal liability,” Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said. “It does it in a gender neutral fashion, which helps us affirm the existence of our trans community and creates equity between genders.”

Reid said the previous rule did not acknowledge the existence of individuals who do not identify within the gender binary. According to the memorandum for the ordinance, gendered language in public nudity ordinances has historically discriminated against the female body and excluded transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. 

Reid added that Wilmette, Winnetka, Kenilworth and Skokie have all updated their public nudity ordinances, and Evanston should follow their lead. Several members of the committee agreed, saying it’s time for the law to change. 

“I like the amendment a lot, and I feel like we have to make these changes,” Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) said.

The new ordinance still prohibits any person, regardless of identity, to be nude in a public space.

The committee proposed that indecent exposure be defined as “sexual conduct or lewd exposure of the body with the intent to arouse … the individual’s sexual desire.”

“Basing our definition of indecent exposure on the concept of lewd intent ignores other types of behavior that are likely to result in the discomfort of others,” Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said. 

Revelle said she wanted to nip the potential for topless beaches in the bud. She introduced an amendment that more specifically defined indecent exposure and would effectively discourage topless beaches in Evanston. 

She proposed defining indecent exposure, which is illegal, as being improperly or indecently clothed. Revelle said she introduced the amendment to represent her constituents’ disapproval of topless beaches. All committee members approved the proposal Monday. 

Geracaris said City Council needs to facilitate more outreach with the community and city staff before the ordinance is further voted on by Council. 

The Human Services Committee also voted in favor of the codification of Miranda Rights into the City Code during Monday’s meeting.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that an individual who is not read their Miranda Rights and whose statements are later used in a criminal trial cannot sue the police officer who violated their rights. This doesn’t remove the requirement, but instead shields officers from civil liability if officers fail to meet it.

Evanston aims to prohibit that circumstance in the city and guarantee Miranda Rights for residents into law, according to Reid. 

“It makes sense for us here in Evanston to ensure that locally, we are guaranteeing that right that folks know what their rights are when they interact with law enforcement,” Reid said.

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