Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Judge declines to stop vote on SF nudity ban

A federal judge has refused to stop San Francisco supervisors from voting on a public nudity ban next week.

Naked men stroll down Castro Street in 2010. Photo: Rick Gerharter

In response to constituents fed up with naked men who congregate at a plaza in the Castro, gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced an ordinance to ban people from being nude on city sidewalks, parklets, streets, on Muni vehicles and inside transit stations. The law would exempt permitted street festivals and parades; nudity is already banned in city parks and on port property.

Nudists and their supporters have fought back, holding several nude-ins to protest the law. They argue it not only tramples on people’s first amendment freedoms but would negatively impact the city’s reputation with tourists and other visitors.

A supervisors’ panel rejected their pleas last week and voted to recommend that the full board adopt the ban. Mayor Ed Lee has expressed support for it, and the supervisors will take it up at their meeting Tuesday, November 20.

As expected, an attorney for four urban nudists filed a lawsuit Wednesday afternoon in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California claiming the proposed law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

“The proposed legislation impermissibly restricts the free speech and association rights of Plaintiffs and all similarly situated persons as it attempts to criminalize nudity even when engaged in for the purpose of political advocacy,” states the lawsuit. “Furthermore, the proposed ordinance violates equal protection as it exempts certain types of speech – i.e. that taking place at City-sanctioned events – from enforcement.”

San Francisco-based lawyer Christina A DiEdoardo, who is representing the nudists, had also sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the supervisors from voting on the ban next week.

But in a conference call with DiEdoardo and attorneys for the city this afternoon, (Thursday, November 15) U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen rejected the request. Instead, Chen said he would consider a motion for an injunction against the proposed ordinance that would prevent the ban from going into effect if it is passed by city leaders while the issue makes its way through the courts.

If a majority of the 11-member Board of Supervisors votes to approve the nudity ban Tuesday, then a second and final vote would take place Tuesday, December 4. At that point Lee would have 10 days to sign the measure into law and it would go into effect within 30 days, or January 13 at the latest.

It is believed that at least six supervisors will vote to pass the ban. It is also expected that the injunction against the nudity ban being enforced while its legality is litigated would be approved.

The judge has asked both sides to come up with a court date in the coming weeks to hear the injunction request.

The proposed law would ban a person from exposing their genitals, perineum and anal region in public. A first offense would come with a $100 fine, while repeat offenders could face a $500 fine or a year in county jail.

Any convictions due to the ordinance would not constitute a sex offense for purposes of the state sex offender registry.

The supervisors meet at 2 p.m. inside the Legislative Chamber, Room 250 at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place.

— Matthew S. Bajko, November 15, 2012 @ 5:41 pm PST
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