08:53, November 30 290 0 abajournal.com

2018-11-30 08:53:05
Judge allows transgender woman’s suit challenging Chicago ban on topless female performances

A transgender performance artist can proceed with her suit challenging the Chicago ordinance that prevents her from performing topless or in the nude in establishments that sell liquor.

U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood ruled earlier this month that Bea Sullivan-Knoff can proceed with claims that the ordinance’s ban on female but not male topless performances violates the equal protection clause and is unconstitutionally vague when applied to transgender people. The Washington Post has coverage on the Nov. 12 opinion denying a motion to dismiss. The Chicago Sun-Times covered Sullivan-Knoff’s suit in August 2016.

In one of Sullivan-Knoff’s acts, she appears on stage with a brown paper bag over her head that reads, “Touch Me.” She wears only a sheet, Wood wrote. Audience members are invited to touch Sullivan-Knoff’s body, and after a set period of time, she removes the bag. Sullivan-Knoff says she fears legal repercussions if she continues to perform the act.

Sullivan-Knoff told the Washington Post that, by inviting the audience to objectify her, she is depicting the way transgender people feel when the government dictates the terms of their bodies.

Wood said it’s not clear that Sullivan-Knoff’s act violates the ordinance, but she will assume that it does for purposes of the opinion.

Chicago’s justification for the ordinance “relies upon the assumption that females have a heightened capacity to arouse sexual desire when exposing their breasts as compared to males,” Wood wrote. But claims about “the heightened sexual nature of female breasts might just be a product of society’s sexual objectification of women,” she wrote, citing a decision by a federal judge in Denver.

Wood allowed claims based on the federal and Illinois constitutions. She tossed a claim, however, that the Chicago ordinance interferes with Sullivan-Knoff’s right to bodily integrity under the due process clause.