A nude protester walks in the supervisors' legislative
chambers in San Francisco City Hall after city leaders gave
final approval to a ban on public nudity. REUTERS/Beck
San Francisco city leaders have given final approval to a
ban on public nudity, a measure aimed at curtailing displays of
nakedness that some residents and business owners say have
gotten out of control in the famously tolerant city.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors' action at City Hall
prompted about a half dozen angry protesters to strip down to
Standing at the ready with blankets, sheriff's deputies
quickly covered up the demonstrators and led them from the
majestic beaux-arts chamber. Protesters, one wearing only
rainbow knee socks and another sporting black nylons,
chanted, "body freedom" and "shame on you" as they were
The Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval to the
nudity ban two weeks ago. Its final 6-5 vote this week came
without further debate from the panel.
The supervisors' efforts to clamp down on public nudity has
caused a flap in the city, where men in particular are known
to parade in the buff through the streets of the
predominantly gay Castro District.
Some residents and business owners say nudists, and
specifically a group known as the Naked Guys, have gone too
far with their constant presence at a square in the Castro
District. But nudists claim a right to bare all and say
politicians in San Francisco, which has often celebrated the
bizarre and unconventional, should leave them alone.
Mayor Ed Lee is expected to sign the ordinance, which would
clear the way for it to take effect on February 1.
Supervisor Scott Wiener drafted the proposal to ban public
nudity in the city, and he represents the Castro District.
Opponents dubbed the ordinance the "Wiener bill."
"This has been a very difficult issue, a lot of strong views
on both sides," Wiener told Reuters after the vote. "But it
was an issue that needed to be addressed, and I addressed it
in a very narrow way."
The ban would prohibit most nudity in public, but it would
continue to allow marchers at special events, like the San
Francisco Pride Parade, to bare all. Children under 5 can be
naked in public and sunbathers can continue to strip down on
California state law prohibits indecent exposure, but law
enforcement must show evidence of lewd behaviour rather than
simple nudity. A number of cities, including San Jose and
Berkeley, already have nudity bans, Wiener said.
Four nudists, including a former San Francisco mayoral
candidate, have filed suit challenging the ban. Attorney
Christina DiEdoardo, who represents the plaintiffs, says the
city is depriving nudists of their constitutional rights to
free speech and equal protection.
"Now the city is going to have to spend considerable time and
money to defend an ordinance that didn't have to be passed,"
San Francisco last year required nudists to cover the
surfaces they sit on in public places and to wear clothes in
restaurants. Residents say the restrictions spurred defiant
Violators under the city's nudity ban would be fined up to
$100 for a first offense and $200 for a second. Three-time
offenders would face up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.