Activists argue public nudity is “symbolic speech” and is therefore protected under the First Amendment.
A federal judge in San Francisco will decide today whether or not to block a new city law requiring people to wear clothing in public. Public nudity activists prompted the hearing when they argued that the ban on public nudity is a violation of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. The activists claim their public nudity is a political statement. The Associated Press reports,
They also argue the law violates equal protection rights because it exempts children younger than 5 and public nudity at certain events such as an annual street fair, the city’s Gay Pride Parade and it Bay-to-Breakers foot race, which is noted for the wacky costumes — or lack thereof — of participants.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors authorized the ban with a 6-5 vote last month after several naked and vocal protests from the nudists and their supporters. They assert that the ban is a “matter of public health, safety and the general welfare of all residents.” The protestors assert that the citywide ban is unnecessary and undermines San Francisco values such as tolerance and “appreciation for the offbeat.” They also argue that it will draw police attention away from bigger issues.
The ban would require anyone in public to wear clothing below the waist, and was introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the largely gay Castro District. Wiener introduced the proposed legislation after many constituents complained about the groups of naked men who gather in one of the neighborhoods small plaza’s and who sometimes walk the streets naked.
If the proposed legislation becomes law, a first offense is punishable by a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. However, prosecutors would have the authority to charge a third violation as a state misdemeanor with punishment not to exceed a $500 fine and up to a year in jail.
Nude activists protesting the new legislation at San Francisco City hall
Feature Photo: Monica’s Dad/Flickr
Photo: Eric Steuer/Flickr