The West Chester Borough Council voted to approve a new sign that will be hung in front of Feminique Boutique on Wednesday. Residents objected to the sign because it contains the outline of a nude woman and the slogan “get your heart on.”
Several borough council members voiced their disapproval of the sign, but said their hands were tied by the first amendment.
“We cannot look into the morality of this issue,” said borough council member John Manion. “We can only look at the legality. If we say no we’ll end up with a lawsuit we cannot win.”
According to the borough’s lawyer Michael Gill borough council can only vote on whether or not the sign met the borough’s code for sign appropriateness in the historic district.
That code only covers things like the size of the sign, sign materials and the materials used to hang the sign. Gill said that the council could not make any decisions based on content.
“You cannot make any determination based on speech that isn’t false or misleading,” Gill said.
Several residents, as well as borough council members, made reference to an agreement Jill McDevitt signed when she opened Feminique Boutique in 2008.
In that document, McDevitt said, “Our signage and advertising will be similarly discreet and also will not depict human genitals, pubic region, anus, buttocks or female breasts or sexual activity involving those areas.”
“She made an agreement to not depict forms and shapes,” said borough council member Cassandra Jones. “I do not appreciate the fact that there’s an agreement made, but that it’s not being followed.”
Jill McDevitt, owner of Feminique Boutique, declined to comment on the agreement but later thanked borough council for allowing her the opportunity to spread her “sex positive” message.
“My hope is that a woman will read the article that will be written about this and feel empowered,” McDevitt said.
Several residents called the sign inappropriate with several more going so far as to call it outright obscenity.
“I know we can’t legislate morality,” said borough resident Gordon Woodrow. “We also can’t legislate taste. This is certainly in poor taste.”
“People in this town work hard to maintain the historic character of West Chester, and I think it’s our duty to work just as hard to maintain its moral character.”
Council member Jordan Norley added, “A no vote on this would be walking in with open eyes into breaking the law and opening the borough up to a lawsuit.”