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One year later: What’s going on with the case of Bea Sullivan-Knoff, the transgender artist fighting to perform topless in bars?

One year later: What’s going on with the case of Bea Sullivan-Knoff, the transgender artist fighting to perform topless in bars?

On August 23 2016, Shiller Preyar Law Offices (SPLO) filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago and Rahm Emanuel over a city code that fines venues that serve alcohol if they allow women--not men--to expose their breasts publicly. Now the city is pushing for a judge to throw the case out.

In the suit, SPLO attorney Mary Grieb says this rule stops her client, Bea Sullivan Knoff, from performing at venues that serve alcohol, causing financial loss and emotional distress. Sullivan Knoff is a Chicago-based performance artist, and Grieb says the code is unfair to women and ignores transgender people, like her client, entirely.

In October 2016 Emanuel and the City asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that because male and female breasts are physically different the rule does not violate the first amendment. Further, they say that the rule treats cisgender and transgender people the same.

Grieb sees right through the city’s response, “The City of Chicago and Mayor Emanuel's motion to dismiss Bea Sullivan-Knoff's complaint is a thinly-veiled attempt to justify government-sanctioned gender identity discrimination.”

Grieb, along with SPLO Attorney Tia Haywood Monte replied to the city’s motion to dismiss in December 2016, again arguing that the rule is discriminatory because it (a) doesn’t reference male breasts and (b) doesn’t give any guidance to transgender people at all, making it biased from the start.

Rahm is proving her client’s point, says Grieb, “The City's response to Ms. Sulilvan-Knoff's lawsuit reflects exactly the problem she challenges through her art: invidious and arbitrary legislation of, and discrimination against, trans people.”

In January, the city doubled down on its request for the judge to throw the case out.

Now it’s the court’s turn to respond, and Grieb is optimistic; “As we wait for the court's ruling on the City's motion to dismiss, we are confident that the Constitution protects Ms. Sullivan-Knoff and her performance art and that her challenge to the ordinance will succeed.”

Read more about Sullivan Knoff here

Shiller Preyar Law Offices fights against discrimination every day. Contact us today! 312-226-4590

Blog Author: Christina Pillsbury, SPLO Social Media Marketing Manager 

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