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San Francisco supervisors to vote on nudity ban Tuesday

By Beat News Service November 19, 2012 One Comment Print Share

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday on whether to ban public nudity, an unprecedented maneuver to fight the blossoming popularity of urban nakedness in the city.

The proposed ordinance put forth by Supervisor Scott Wiener will likely gain enough votes to pass, but it follows a series of protests by naked men and women on the steps of City Hall, including a march last Wednesday around the building and in front of thousands of high schoolers on a field trip to the San Francisco Opera across the street.

The ordinance would prohibit anyone over 5 years old from disrobing on sidewalks, city plazas, open spaces and transit vehicles. Violators would be fined $100 for the first offense. A second offense will cost $200, and a third offense could cost upwards of $500 with possible jail time.

There are exceptions carved out in the law: nudity will be okay at parades and special events infamous for the popularity of nudity, such as the city’s Bay to Breakers foot race and the Folsom Street Fair, an annual celebration for sadomasochism.

A shift in public attitude

While city leaders have in the past treated public nudity as just another quirk of living in famously tolerant San Francisco, residents and business owners along Castro Street complained that the burgeoning popularity of being in the buff out in public has started to become a public nuisance, particularly after naked men began showing up in droves for daily walks and held congregations at a city plaza.

“Until recently, public nudity in our city was mostly limited to various street festivals and beaches as well as the occasional naked person wandering the streets,” Wiener, who represents the Castro District, told constituents. “What’s happening now is different.”

Last year, the Board passed legislation that required the “naked guys” to place something between the plaza’s seats and their bare bottoms, but the ordinance did not do enough to quell the uproar in the neighborhood.

Federal lawsuit filed

In proposing the nudity ban, Wiener has become a target for those opposed to the crackdown on public nakedness.

“Nudity does not harm anyone,” said protest organizer Gypsy Taub, who disrobed in Board chambers during a meeting in early November to protest Wiener’s proposal. “It’s people’s actions and not people’s bodies that harm people… It is nothing to do with clothes, it has to do with people’s actions.”

Last Wednesday, Taub and three other nudists filed a federal lawsuit over the proposed ordinance in a federal court, claiming the law would violate their free speech rights.

“With regard to the wider issue of those who object to nude people in public, there’s an easy remedy which costs no public money, requires no court time and consumes no scarce jail space: look away,” Christina DiEdoardo, the nudists’ lawyer wrote on her website.

Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, at which the nudity ban will be voted on, starts at 2 p.m. inside the Board Chambers, Room 250, at San Francisco City Hall.

Contact the Beat at news@californiabeat.org.

One Comment »

  • George Williams said:

    Nudity unto itself is not a problem. If other things which violate other laws are evident, rape, etc., then arrest and prosecution are justified and required.

    We spend too much time and money on needless things such as banning nudity. Go after the meaningful things.