San Francisco lawmakers vote to ban public nudity
BY LISA LEFF Associated Press
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
11/21/12 at 4:15 AM
SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco lawmakers disappointed committed nudists Tuesday by narrowly approving a ban on public nakedness, despite concerns the measure would undermine the city's reputation as a sanctuary for free expression.
The Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 in favor of a public safety ordinance that prohibits exposed genitals in most public places, including streets, sidewalks and public transit. The law still must pass a final vote and secure Mayor Edwin Lee's signature to take effect early next year.
Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the ban in response to escalating complaints about a group of men whose bare bodies are on display almost daily in the city's predominantly gay Castro District.
"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," Wiener said Tuesday. "Our public spaces are for everyone, and as a result, it's appropriate to have some minimal standards of behavior."
Weiner's opponents on the board said a citywide ban was unnecessary and would draw police officers' attention away from bigger problems while undermining San Francisco values like tolerance and appreciation for the offbeat.
"I'm concerned about civil liberties, about free speech, about changing San Francisco's style and how we are as a city," Supervisor John Avalos said. "I cannot and will not bite this apple and I refuse to put on this fig leaf."
Under Weiner's proposal, a first offense would carry a maximum penalty of a $100 fine, but prosecutors would have authority to charge a third violation as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and a year in jail.
Exemptions would be made for participants at permitted street fairs and parades, such as the city's annual gay pride event and the Bay-to-Breakers street run, which often draw participants in costumes or various states of undress.
Wiener, a gay Democrat whose district includes the Castro, noted his ordinance is far narrower than the broad ban that's been in effect for decades in the city's parks and port.
A federal lawsuit claiming the ban would violate the free speech rights of people who prefer to make a statement by going au naturel was filed last week in case the ordinance passes.
Original Print Headline: San Francisco advances public nudity ban