San Francisco is considering a public nudity ban, a move that would shed the California city of its image that anything goes — including clothing.
The city’s lawmakers will vote on and ordinance on Tuesday that would prohibit nudity in many public places, reports ABC News. It would be a blanket ban representing an escalation of a two-year fight between a devoted group of men who regularly walk through the city’s famously gay Castro District naked and the area’s supervisor.
The supervisor, Scott Weiner, has proposed the ordinance, which would make it illegal for someone over the age of five to “expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region on any public street, sidewalk, street median, parklet or plaza” or while they are using public transit.
If the San Francisco public nudity ban is implemented, a first offense would carry a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. Prosecutors would have the authority to charge a third violation as a misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine up to $500 and a year in jail.
There would be exemptions to the law for participants at permitted street fairs and parades, like the city’s annual gay pride event and the Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates sexual subcultures like sadomasochism.
The Los Angeles Times notes that Supervisor Scott Weiner, in introducing the ban, stated:
“In its traditional form in San Francisco, public nudity was fine. It was fine to have a random [naked] person walking through the neighborhood once in a while. It was fine at public festivals and parades.”
Weiner added, however, “I don’t think having some guys taking their clothes off and hanging out seven days a week at Castro and Market Street is really what San Francisco is about. I think it’s a caricature of what San Francisco is about.”
The proposed ban has produced outrage and even a lawsuit. About two dozen people stripped down outside City Hall last week to protest the possible ban. They marched around the block to the amusement and horror of gawking tourists and high school students in the area on a field trip.
San Francisco lawyer Christina DiEdoardo filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of four people which seeks to block the ordinance, should it be passed and signed by San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee. The complaint alleges that a ban on nudity would infringe on free speech rights of nudists.
While it may seem odd that San Francisco would need a public nudity ban, most California cities don’e have any local nudity laws. They are covered by indecent exposure laws, but those only technically apply to lewd behavior. Instead, a local solution is required to ban public nudity.