Woman seeks topless rights

Posted
Tuesday September 28, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- A woman who had fought unsuccessfully for a topless sunbathing area at a city beach wants the state's law on nudity made equal for women.

Katherine Gundelfinger, 39, of Pittsfield, gathered the 200 signatures necessary for a non-binding public policy question that will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot in the 3rd Berkshire District. The question calls on the district's state representative to support legislation changing the state law on nudity to allow women to be topless in the same public places that is allowed for men.

Gundelfinger, a city native, tried in 2007 to designate a section of the beach at Burbank Park on Onota Lake for both sexes to sunbathe topless. Her petition to the City Council also sought to create an ordinance requiring shirts be worn by anyone on North Street -- a re-quirement aimed at men.

After follow-up attempts failed this summer -- the Parks Com-mission voted against the topless beach petition while the North Street petition never made it to a City Council vote -- Gundelfinger decided to broaden the scope of her efforts.

"I abandoned the idea of designating an area, and I just chose to go with amending the definition of nudity instead of segregating women," Gundelfinger said.

The right to be topless in public should be the same for both sexes, according to Gundelfinger. She is calling it a matter of "equal rights -- equal access to sunshine from the waist up."

The question specifically calls for the district's state representative to "support legislation which would amend the state's definition of nudity, so that no part of the female breast is included and so that females of any age may be unclothed from the waist up in public or anywhere males may be, including in print and on film."

Neither state Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, nor his opponent for re-election in the 3rd Berkshire District, Mark Miller, of the Green-Rainbow Party of Massa-chusetts, immediately re-turned calls for comment on this story.

Because it would be non-binding and there is currently no legislation before the state House of Representatives that would amend the definition of nudity, it is difficult to gauge what impact the question would have if approved.

Gundelfinger herself was unsure of the question's impact, and though she is excited to see the results of the election, she wouldn't make any predictions on whether voters would pass it.


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