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Nantucket is deeply divided over whether to allow women to go topless at the beach

It's a debate that is heating up the island off the coast Cape Cod this summer.

A trip to the beach often involves grabbing the sunscreen, rocking a wide-brimmed hat and wearing a bikini — unless you’re headed for the shores that surround the island of Nantucket, in which case you might soon be able to leave half of your suit behind.

Last month, the town known for its picturesque lighthouses and foggy mornings voted in favor of an amendment that would allow female beachgoers to enjoy a liberty heretofore reserved for the fellas — the right to go topless in Nantucket.

A view of Madaket Beach on April 25, 2020, in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

But the idea of chest-baring for all met some resistance when resident Dorothy Stover, a seventh-generation Nantucketer, brought it up at a town meeting, stirring up a little turbulence in the calm waters around the tiny island.

“This bylaw would not make beaches nude beaches,” Stover explained when she introduced the idea at the meeting. “This bylaw would allow tops to be optional for anyone that chooses to be topless.”

As far as Stover's concerned, it's simply a matter of gender equality. And she isn't alone in that idea.

Another woman chimed in during the meeting, saying, "I may not choose to go topless — God forbid everybody run away — but I think other people should have that choice."

However, others spoke against the notion of being liberated from half of a bathing suit.

"If I have to go topless to prove that I am equal to a male, there is something wrong with that concept," quipped one woman.

A man in attendance added, "We talk about preservation, we talk about making sure the shingles are gray, yet we’re going to pass something that would call undue attention to this island for the wrong reasons."

But despite some vocal dissent, the quaint town passed Stover's proposal with a vote of 327 in favor of it and 242 opposed.

That doesn’t mean the law has changed yet, though. The measure still has to be approved by the state of Massachusetts’ attorney general, who's expected to make a decision in early September.  

Until then, any women going top-free on Nantucket beaches face a penalty of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $300.

"Other states have already passed top freedom," Stover told TODAY as she and others await the final decision. "Hopefully this is a step in desexualizing the female body, not objectifying."