Dress codes and laws around appropriate clothing have always been a way of controlling gender expression, sexual orientation and racial identity, and persist until this day. Laws specifically targeting homosexuals and transgender people - including laws banning people from wearing opposite sex clothing - were common in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries and many still remain on the books, even as new laws advance LGBTQ+ rights.

Des Plaines to Repeal Opposite Sex Clothing Ban

Des Plaines, Illinois has one such law from the early 1960s that has not yet been repealed — but will soon. The city council has announced they plan to repeal the law that makes it illegal for anyone to “appear in any such place in a dress not belonging to his sex.” The ordinance targeted queer identity through "obscene and immoral acts."

Des Plaines Mayor Andrew Goczkowski

Des Plaines Mayor Andrew Goczkowski expects the repeal to pass without controversy. "The existing language is a relic from a different and less accepting time," Goczkowski said. "When it was brought to our attention, it was obvious that it needed to be updated."

The rule has been in place since 1963 - just a year after Illinois repealed sodomy laws and made homosexual activity legal - making it illegal for anyone to "appear in any such place in a dress not belonging to his sex." To do so is to commit indecent exposure, the ordinance states.

The proposal before the board will remove language about gender-specific clothing from the ordinance and change a reference to male genitalia in a different part of the ordinance to the nonspecific "their."

Attorney and Elk Grove Village resident Jim Naughton raised the issue to municipal officials after discovering the ordinances while reviewing suburban municipal codes. Elk Grove Village dropped its rule last month, and Schaumburg did the same earlier this week.

"I think the fact that it was placed on the consent agenda speaks to how welcoming the community is," Goczkowski said.

If approved, the repeal will be the second recent ordinance change in Des Plaines designed to support the LGBTQ community.

The meeting will be broadcast live at desplaines.org/accessdesplaines.