Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Nudity still allowed at SF Pride, Folsom Street

A Folsom Street fairgoer in 2012 (Courtesy Fred Alert Photo)

A Folsom Street fairgoer in 2012 (Courtesy Fred Alert Photo)

People can still be naked at Pride and Folsom Street this year.

San Francisco’s nudity ban, which went into effect February 1, prohibits showing one’s anal region or genitals except as part of permitted parades, fairs, or festivals, such as the city’s Pride parade and celebration (June 29-30) and Folsom Street Fair (September 29).

But some people apparently became confused when the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee recently listed nudity under “prohibited activities” in its exhibitor guidelines.

According to a screenshot on nudist Mitch Hightower’s Facebook page, Pride’s rules said “City ordinances prohibit public exposure of genitals (‘Nudity’),” and said the committee “cannot tell you exactly where the line is drawn, and you draw the line too close” at the risk of being warned, ticketed, or even arrested by police.

In a comment on his page, Hightower said, “So much for fairs, festivals and parades being exempt from the nudity ban. The SF Pride website lists nudity as conduct that is deemed illegal by the City and therefore ‘NOT ALLOWED.'”

But it seems that Pride officials misunderstood the law.

In an email, Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, pointed to the ordinance’s language regarding permitted festivals and said since Pride “is a permitted event, it seems to be exempt.”

Asked about the issue in a phone interview, Pride CEO Earl Plante acknowledged the exemption and indicated people working with his group wouldn’t try to make anyone put their clothes on.

“We’re not in the enforcement business,” Plante said.

Pride appears to have changed its guidelines since Hightower started spreading the word about the organization’s rules on nudity.

The guidelines now reflect reality, stating, “The City of San Francisco Nudity Ban ordinance prohibits nudity on city streets, sidewalks, plazas and other public spaces. However, it allows exceptions for street fairs, parades, including the SF Pride Parade and celebration, and other permitted public events and does not apply to children under 5 years old.”

Nudity will still be allowed at Folsom Street, too, Folsom Street Events Executive Director Demetri Moshoyannis said in an interview.

Moshoyannis said he’s heard from many people who’ve been worried about how much skin they’ll be able to show.

“This was my fear early on,” he said. He suspected “many people will not read the fine print, and therefore they will not know permitted street fairs are exempt.” Like the Folsom Street leather fest, Up Your Alley (July 28), which Moshoyannis’s nonprofit also produces, is exempt, too.

“As a matter of fact,” he said, “We’re expanding our clothes check areas to accommodate the potential increased interest in nudity at the fair.”

Moshoyannis expects more interest, at least in the first year, because “I think Up Your Alley and Folsom Street are places where people feel comfortable,” and the events “exist in part as a source of sexual expression. I think that nudity is a part of that conversation and dialogue around sexual expression. … If it’s the one place you can still do it, why not do it?”

He said that the Pride celebration has some park grounds – Civic Center Plaza – where nudity was already technically banned, but during previous celebrations, it hasn’t been enforced.

Moshoyannis issued a news release today (Thursday, March 21) in which he notes this year marks Folsom Street Fair’s 30th anniversary and says, “We are going to add new events, special fair enhancements, and bring back special features as well. … [Y]ou can come to the fair, change out of your clothes and into something else – or nothing at all.”

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who authored the nudity ban, says in the news release, “Events like SF Leather Week and Folsom Street Fair are vital to our commerce and our cultural development. Working with Folsom Street Events, I amended the nudity legislation to delete the word ‘buttocks’ from the final legislation so that leathermen in chaps would still feel comfortable visiting our city, whether or not they are physically inside the street fair. Permitted street fairs have been exempt since the original proposal, because we know that nudity is not only acceptable, but welcome, in the right context.”

A group of urban nudists last week filed an amended complaint in federal court challenging the city’s nudity ban. But Thursday morning, federal Judge Edward M. Chen denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 21, 2013 @ 1:07 pm PST
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