Nantucket Discusses Newly-Approved Topless Beach Bylaw: ‘It Is Historic'

Dorothy Stover, the Nantucket resident who proposed the bylaw, told NBC10 Boston on Wednesday she felt that Attorney General Maura Healey signing off on the change was a win.

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The Nantucket Select Board met Wednesday night to discuss a newly approved bylaw that allows anyone, regardless of gender, to go topless on Nantucket's beaches.

Members debated clarifying language in the proposal, specifically defining the word “beach” and explaining the policy for private beaches.



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“You know are you standing on top of the dune, are you in the parking lot, are you on a pathway to the beach? What are the limits that this allows?” said John Giorgio.

“I’ve got a couple of texts from conservative friends who are off island, here in the summer, sort of teasing us and I keep saying I don’t think it’s going to change too much,” said Matt Fee.

The Gender Equality on Beaches bylaw amendment passed 327-242 at the resort island's town meeting in May, but the Massachusetts attorney general's office had to review the measure to ensure that it did not conflict with the state constitution. The town has the authority to choose what activities it allows on its beaches, the attorney general's office wrote in its decision, made public Tuesday.

"We approve the Town's vote authorizing any person to go topless on any public or private beach in Nantucket because we discern no conflict" with the constitution, the ruling said.

The bylaw was originally proposed by seventh-generation Nantucket resident Dorothy Stover.

Stover told NBC10 Boston on Wednesday she felt that Attorney General Maura Healey signing off on the change was a win.

“My first reaction was relief and excitement,” said Stover.

“We agreed that there is inequality currently and there’s also… the big part of this is de-sexualization. So right now female breasts are sexualized so this will help to hopefully de-sexualize,” she added. “It is historic and Nantucket has always been at the forefront of history and equality.”

Stover had previously said her hope was to normalize bodies of all shapes and sizes and foster an environment of acceptance.

The bylaw's approval also got the thumbs-up from a state lawmaker who represents the island.

"Nantucket beaches have been officially approved to allow both men AND women to go topless - a win for gender equity (& tan lines?)," Rep. Dylan Fernandes tweeted.

The attorney general's office also suggested further clarifying the bylaw so it has "a more definite scope.''

The town on its website said there would be an adjustment period.

"We ask everyone to be patient and respectful as the island adapts to this first-of-its-kind bylaw in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,'' the post said.

Members did not specify when the bylaw will go into effect, but did not indicate it would be held up before the summer season.

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