The new law retains the city's topless ban for women.
JERSEY CITY — The City Council on Wednesday approved a slew of changes to the city’s old obscenity law, changes supporters said will bring the law into the 21st Century and conform to modern community standards on what is obscene.
The most eye-catching provision of the new obscenity law — a plan to allow women to bare their breasts in public — was removed when it became clear that a majority of council members would not support it. The version adopted on Wednesday continues the topless ban for women.
Councilman James Solomon, who pushed for the obscenity law changes after the city threatened to shut down a Newark Avenue bar because of a planned appearance by burlesque star Lillian Bustle, called Wednesday’s vote “an important step forward.”
The new law contains “much stronger and clearer protections for free speech. It allows for artistic performance in our community,” Solomon said, adding that “it removes unreasonable and unconstitutional restrictions on people’s private lives.”
That comment was a reference to the old law’s ban on anyone owning six or more sex toys and six or more adult films, a ban erased from the new law. The old law, first adopted by the city in the 1980s as a way to keep strip clubs from opening in the city, said anyone with that many sex toys had the “intent” to distribute them.
The council adopted the ordinance 7-1. Councilman Michael Yun voted no. Councilwoman Joyce Watterman was absent. Yun was roundly mocked in May when he referred to breasts as “those things” during a council discussion of the topless ban.
Members of the public who spoke out against the new law appeared unaware that the topless ban remains unchanged and expressed fear that the changes would turn Jersey City’s streets into Times Square circa the 1970s.
Yvonne Balcer, a frequent critic of the administration, said she remembers seeing a man in New York City walking around with no shirt and a dog collar on. Richard Surazynski urged the council members to follow their religious beliefs.
“Jesus Christ would never have repealed the obscenity laws,” he said.
Bustle noted to critics of the ordinance that the topless ban was not removed from the law’s language.
“People are not going to be traipsing around in flagrante delicto in Jersey City,” she said.
Councilman Daniel Rivera, before voting yes, said he was initially resistant to the obscenity law changes because he feared walking along the street with his infant granddaughter and encountering a woman with her top off.
“I kind of felt a little uncomfortable with that,” he said. “A couple of weeks ago I’m out with my daughter, who just had a baby, and my granddaughter started to cry. And boom, just, you know, she just took out her breast and she started to breastfeed. And that impacted me.”
The council on Wednesday also approved a measure that would lead to a return of police horses. The vote passed 5-3, with council members Rolando Lavarro, Michael Yun and Jermaine Robinson voting no.
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