San Francisco outlaws nudity
Published: 22 November, 2012, 01:56
Protesters expose themselves at San Francisco's City Hall after the city's Board of Supervisors approved a ban on public nudity on November 20, 2012. (AFP Photo / Josh Edelson)
San Francisco has placed a ban on public nudity in a new law that will punish violators with a fine between $100 and $500 and could land repeat offenders in jail.
The Californian city’s board of supervisor’s decision came in response to complaints by residents and businesses disturbed by an increase of nudists in the city’s historically gay Castro District. The board voted 6-5 on Tuesday in favor of the ban, which fines first-time offenders $100, second-time offenders $200 and third-time offenders up to $500 and/or a misdemeanor charge and a year in jail.
“We’re a city that believes in freedom, and we’ve always believed in freedom and free expression,” Supervisor Scott Wiener, who introduced the ordinance, told CNN affiliate KGO. “But taking your pants off at Castro and Market and displaying your genitals to everyone, that’s not free expression.”
Some nudists argued that a ban on public nudity is a drastic measure that strips them of their freedom. While the board favored the ban overall, some nudists were impressed by the votes of the five supervisors who supported the right to public nudity – even though they were disappointed by the outcome of the vote.
“I was very impressed today by the supervisors that did not support the nudity ban,” nudist activist Mitch Hightower wrote on Facebook. “They asked many of the same questions we’ve all been asking. Such as ‘Why wasn’t there any effort to find a community solution short of citywide legislation?’ ‘Is a problem at one street corner really the most important way to spend our time?’”
Supervisor Christina Olague, who voted against the ban, said she chose to do so to protect some of Americans’ basic rights.
While the new law brought relief to those who felt uncomfortable at the sight of nudists, it angered those who liked to take their clothes off. As soon as the measure passed, distraught protesters inside City Hall tore of their clothes before being escorted away by authorities and forced to cover themselves with blue blankets.
“Is the First Amendment more powerful and more important than the passions of an intolerant mob and the ambitions of one or more city supervisors?” Christina DiEdorado, an attorney representing the nudists, told KGO. “We would contend that it is, and that’s what our case is based upon.”
Some nudists have filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing that the ban violated their First Amendment rights.
Under the ordinance, public nudity will still be allowed at parades, fairs and festivals where nudity is legally permitted. The ordinance will be put up for a second vote on Dec. 4. San Francisco legislation must always undergo two votes.