Women can still go topless in San Francisco, but a close vote by the city’s supervisors on Tuesday approved a ban on other forms of public nudity that were producing a flood of complaints from residents.
Immediately following the 6-5 decision, nudists and others at the board of supervisors meeting began stripping off their clothes, according to the New York Times, with one woman ripping off her shirt while yelling, “shame on you . . . What are you afraid of?” Anticipating the strip-down, police were on hand with blankets to cover up the naked protestors.
The law doesn’t go into effect until Feb. 1, leaving plenty of time for residents who argue the ban is a violation of free speech rights to demonstrate further and have the matter decided by a federal judge.
The new law’s other exceptions include permitting public nudity among preschoolers. Also, during certain San Francisco celebrations, such as the annual gay pride parade and the Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates a bondage/leather subculture, full nudity remains legal.
With the new law, San Francisco joins several other California municipalities with similar bans, including Berkeley and San Jose. Under current California law public, nudity is legal so long as it is not deemed lewd or offensive.
The law was proposed by City Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the city’s Castro district, an area with a large gay and lesbian community.
According to Wiener, the public nudity complaints that led to the new law weren’t made by business owners or straight residents, as had been alleged by some nudists, but rather, “the dominant demographic expressing concern is gay men.”
Detractors were quick to reject Wiener’s reason for the law, with outgoing supervisor Christina Olague calling the law “a solution in search of a problem.”
Under the new law, first time violators will receive a fine of up to $100, a second violation within one year would cost up to $200, and a third would result in a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $500.
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