U. S. District Court Judge Beth Phillips today ruled in favor of Springfield, Missouri city officials and dismissed a lawsuit that claimed a city ordinance prohibiting women from baring their breasts while allowing men to do so was discriminatory.

In her ruling, Judge Phillips said that the Equal Protection Clause did not apply to a Springfield ordinance passed in March 2016. "There is no denying that men's and women's breasts are different," she wrote, adding that the city has a legitimate interest in protecting public decency and morality. City officials have also claimed the laws are needed to enhance Springfield's reputation as a tourist attraction.

Men, women removed shirts to oppose Missouri city's earlier ordinance

Free the Nipple-Springfield, an offshoot of the national Free The Nipple movement, reached an agreement with Springfield city officials on its original lawsuit, which fought a 2015 ordinance that called for even more draconian restrictions against displays of not just female breasts, but certain portions of female breasts outside of the nipple that was not covered by the previous ordinance.

The ordinance was the Springfield City Council's response to a protest on August 26, 2015, in Park Central Square, in which Free the Nipple-Springfield members removed their shirts and placed bandages over their nipples, with men in the organization doing the same in solidarity with the women.

After the ordinance was passed, Free the Nipple-Springfield, represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, filed the action.

After the lawsuit was filed, the Springfield City Council dropped the new ordinance and put the original public decency ordinance back into effect, prompting an amended lawsuit challenging the replacement law.

Springfield city officials agree not to return to more drastic public decency ordinance

Free the Nipple-Springfield and Springfield city officials reached an agreement on three counts of the lawsuit in September. According to the agreement, which Judge Phillips approved, Springfield will make no effort to reinstate its the ordinance that originally prompted the lawsuit and is barred forever from doing so.

Today's ruling leaves intact not only the public decency portion of the Springfield ordinance but also the built-in exceptions that are included in the law. The public decency standards do not apply to entertainment in adult establishments and also do not apply to women who are breastfeeding.

In her ruling, Judge Phillips noted that while people are allowed to remove their clothes for entertainment purposes in adult establishments "the city does not allow nude dancing in the public streets."