San Francisco – A public nudity ban was approved by San Francisco lawmakers on Tuesday by a narrow margin of 6-5. The passing of the ban now means that exposed genitals will not be permitted in most of the city’s public places, reports the Associated Press.
In approving the new law, the Board of Supervisors ignored protests that the regulation of nudity in public would negatively affect San Francisco’s reputation as a tolerant, counter-cultural city. Amongst other public places, the ban will apply to streets, plazas, parklets, sidewalks, and public transit.
Supervisor Scott Wiener said the measure was first introduced as a response to complaints about a group of men who regularly shed their clothing in the city’s predominantly gay Castro District. Wiener explained:
“The Castro and San Francisco in general, is a place of freedom, expression and acceptance. But freedom, expression and acceptance does not mean anything goes under any circumstances. Our public spaces are for everyone and as a result it’s appropriate to have some minimal standards of behavior.”
Not all of Wiener’s fellow Supervisors felt the same way. John Avalos remarked:
“I’m concerned about civil liberties, about free speech, about changing San Francisco’s style and how we are as a city.”
Those wishing to expose themselves in the city now will face a maximum fine of $100 on their first offense, while a third violation would allow prosecutors to propose a $500 fine and a year in jail.
Exceptions will be allowed in certain circumstances: for example, those who bare flesh at San Francisco’s annual gay pride event and the Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates sadomasochism and other sexual subcultures, will be exempt from punishment. The ban will also not apply to children under five years old.
Nudists are not backing down easily from the ban. When the measure passed, many pro-nudity supporters in San Francisco’s City Hall disrobed in protest (above) and were escorted from the chamber by San Francisco Sheriff’s deputies.
One nudist, who gave his name as Stardust, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the ban sent the wrong message:
“It’s telling people they should be ashamed to be naked, and that’s totally wrong.”
A lawsuit filed last week is also pending. Attorney Christina DiEdoardo, who is representing many opponents of the ban, warned a federal judge could prevent the law from taking effect during a hearing scheduled for January 17, 2013. DiEdoardo noted that the close 6-5 vote could easily lead to the bill receiving a second reading:
“We only need one person to change their mind. It’s a completely unjustified restraint on free speech.”
What do you think about San Francisco’s public nudity ban? Is it an infringement on civil liberties, or a necessary measure to prevent extreme behavior?