City officials in San Francisco approved a measure Tuesday that bans nudity in most public areas, prompting nudists present to strip down to their socks in protest.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors met at city hall to cast their final vote in the matter, rejecting arguments from pro-nudity proponents that passing the ban would tarnish the city’s reputation for tolerance and the “anything goes” lifestyle.
As previously reported, the ban has been a topic of discussion for a number of weeks, including at a hearing last month where nudist activist Gypsy Taub stripped naked at the podium during the public comment period, calling the lawmakers “fascist.” She was promptly escorted out of the room by police, but was not arrested or cited for any crime.
On Tuesday, approximately half a dozen protesters attended the meeting at city hall in order witness the final vote. Like Taub, once the measure was passed, they undressed in front of all those present, leaving only their socks. Police had prepared for the potential protest, however, as they stood ready with blankets should anyone decide to disrobe during the meeting. According to reports, some of the nudist rights activists began chanting as they were led away by police, yelling “Body freedom!” and “Shame on you!”
Nudists had also gathered outside of the federal courthouse in San Francisco last month as their attorney, Christina DiEdoardo, submitted a lawsuit that sought to block the ban, which they claim is unlawful.
“I’m trying to protect the rights of my clients to engage in protected political speech, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” she told KGO-TV.
“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,” DiEdoardo added in an online blog post about the matter.
The Board of Supervisors states, however, that they have received numerous complaints from people who have had enough of having to avert their eyes as they walk through Jane Warner Plaza. They state that nudity has become commonplace in recent years, but is still abhorred by most.
“Over the past two years, the situation on our streets, and particularly in the Castro, has changed,” the supervisors outlined during discussions on the matter. “Public nudity is no longer random and sporadic, and it’s no longer an occasional quirky part of San Francisco.”
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that he agrees with the prohibition, and that the Constitution does not protect nudity.
“We’re talking much more than just first Amendment rights and people have gone overboard with their exhibitionism,” he told reporters with the San Francisco Chronicle. “On behalf of kids who shouldn’t really have to view this, and on behalf of parents that walk their kids to school, we’re going to create … balanced constrictions.”
Lee is expected to sign the measure into law in the coming days, making it a crime to walk the streets and plazas without covering one’s private parts. California state law currently prohibits indecent exposure, but the element of lewd behavior must also be present in order for the perpetrator to be charged.
Under the San Francisco ordinance, violators would be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second, and if convicted a third time, they can face up to a year in jail, as well as a $500 fine.
The nudity law, when signed, is expected to officially go into effect on February 1. Nudists will still be allowed to bare all on city beaches and during public events, such as the annual gay pride parade.