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Mayor Emanuel & City Sued for Sex Discrimination

Posted by Admin On August - 24 - 2016
Transgender Woman’s Suit Targets City Liquor Laws that Discriminate Against Women Exposing Their Breasts in Entertainment Venues

CHICAGO, IL – Bea Sullivan-Knoff, a queer, transgender woman and performance artist, filed suit in federal court today against the City of Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel challenging the city’s ordinance which prohibits only women, not men, from exposing their breasts in venues with liquor licenses.


The ordinance at issue specifically prohibits only women from exposing their breasts: “No person licensed under this chapter shall permit any employee, entertainer or patron to engage in any live act, demonstration, dance or exhibition on the licensed premises which exposes to public view: … (3)   Any portion of the female breast at or below the areola thereof.” (City of Chicago Mun. Code 4-60-140)


The suit notes that the City’s ordinance “reinforces archaic stereotypes and overbroad generalizations of the impropriety of women’s breasts versus men’s breasts.” While men, whether as performers or patrons, in Chicago’s hot and humid summers routinely remove clothing from their torsos, whether as artistic expressions or simply to cool off, women are prohibited from doing so due to the threat venues’ liquor licenses.


Ms. Sullivan-Knoff and her attorneys, Mary Grieb and Brendan Shiller of The Shiller Preyar Law Offices, will speak at a press conference at 11 am, Wednesday, August 24 in front of Mayor Emanuel’s office, 121 N. LaSalle Street, 5th floor.


Their suit cites challenges the legality and constitutionality of the ordinance based upon:


1)  the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, interpreted to prohibit discrimination against women;


2)  the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of expression;


3)  the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,


4)  Article I, Sections 2 and 18 of the Illinois Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law, and prohibits deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process; and


5)  the Illinois Human Rights Act barring sex and gender identity discrimination; and,


“In 2016 in a city as diverse as Chicago, there should not be an ordinance reflecting 19th century ideas about sex and gender,” said Attorney Grieb. “Moreover, Ms. Sullivan-Knoff is a 23-year-old engaged in the very difficult task of making a living as a young performance artist, yet has been prevented from performing deeply personal pieces due to the City’s transphobic and blatantly sexist ordinance that should be an embarrassment to a modern city in the 21st century.”


A copy of the suit, Bea Knoff-Sullivan v. the City of Chicago and Rahm Emanuel, in his Official Capacity, Case #1:16-cv-08297, is available here.




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