South Portland City Hall

South Portland City Hall Kelley Bouchard photo/Press Herald

SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland City Council has moved to make a ban on nude swimming and public indecency. 

The council unanimously voted to amend the proposed ordinance that would replace male or female with “person” and update the city’s definition of nudity to include the term “a female-identifying person’s breasts.” 

During the meeting, Leighton said that the use of this language is, “incredibly outdated and not inclusive of trans, non-binary, gender-queer, or otherwise differing genders outside the binary of male and female. 

“I think the language for this ordinance needs to change,” Leighton said during the council workshop. “There are more than two genders. Dividing people into two categories is a political choice. It’s not a biological truth. We are erasing (some) people’s right to be, and that is to simply be human.”

At the council workshop on April 26, Leighton proposed amending Chapter 17, “Offenses-Miscellaneous Provisions” which is Section 17-14, Nude, topless bathing and states, “No person shall swim or bathe in a nude state, nor shall any female appear in a topless bathing suit, so-called, in the waters of the city which are adjacent to any of the wharves, bridges, streets, railroads, cemeteries, or places of public resort in the city.”

“Instead of the definition of “nudity” referencing “human male or female,” it now references a “person.” The definition of “nudity” is further updated to remove the word “female” and replace it with “female-identifying person” when referencing breasts. The phrase “nor shall any female appear in a topless bathing suit, so-called” is stricken. A definition of the nude state is added, which reads “the showing of a person’s genitals, public areas, or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering, or the showing of a female-identifying person’s breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola with less than a fully opaque covering.”


Chapter 10 was also proposed for amendment at the workshop. This will include a different definition of nudity in the city’s public indecency ordinance.

The amended ban on nude or topless swimming says: “These ordinance amendments prohibit anyone from showing their genitals, pubic area, or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering, either while swimming or bathing. They also prohibit those who identify as female from showing their breasts at a point immediately above the top of the areola with less than a fully opaque covering. For those who identify as something other than female, the display of breasts would be permitted.” 

Last month councilors showed broad support for making the city more welcoming. The South Portland City Council met to hear a proposal to declare racism as a public health crisis. The Board of Health and Human Rights Commission drafted and presented a three-page document that calls for a full review of municipal laws, policies, and practices to root out systemic racism wherever it might exist. The declaration also includes the LGBTQ+ community, the unhoused, and people with mental and behavioral health conditions and disabilities. 

Leighton plans to propose added language changes to address gender and equity issues elsewhere in city ordinances and the city charter. 

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