MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. – Residents in Middleborough have voted to make the foul-mouthed among them pay fines for swearing in public.

At a town meeting Monday night, residents voted 183-50 to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity.

Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks.

“I’m really happy about it,” Mimi Duphily, a store owner and former town selectwoman, said after the vote.The measure could raise questions about First Amendment rights, but state law does allow towns to enforce local laws that give police the power to arrest anyone who “addresses another person with profane or obscene language” in a public place.

Matthew Segal, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot prohibit public speech just because it contains profanity.

The ordinance gives police discretion over whether to ticket.

Duphily, who runs an auto parts store, wanted take a stand against the kind of swearing that can make customers uncomfortable. “They’ll sit on the bench and yell back and forth to each other with the foulest language. It’s just so inappropriate,” she said.