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San Francisco Bans Public Nudity: A Light Open Thread

Yes, this diary is partially by way a bit of a holiday antidote to the vast amount of horror stories that are coming at us here at home and to far too many all over the world.  When I first spied the news at the Guardian while watching the live-blogging of the events in Gaza, I was mainly just tickled by it all.  But this morning I read a piece at Counterpunch that indicates that it’s a real issue for some folks, so I reckoned it might be a nice topic to explore little bit.  For the legal beagles here, there are apparently various legal and Constitutional rights to consider as well as cultural/societal ones.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 to ban public nudity in a motion brought by the regrettably named Scott Wiener.

Mr. Wiener:

This situation has changed” he said. “It’s no longer sporadic. It’s seven days a week in this neighbourhood where people live and work and conduct their lives.”

He said people were standing at the corner of Market and Castro, “displaying their genitals to anyone who is passing by. It is very much a ‘hey, look what I have’ mentality.”

While he recognised that Castro was a place of “freedom of expression,” he said: “That doesn’t mean we have no standards whatsoever.

According to Binoy Kampmark:

The law might be an ass, but its parents tend to be unwise law makers.  A nice, even depressing example of this is the attempt by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors to make it illegal for anyone over five (why not six, seven or eight?) to “expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region” in public locations, including places of transit.  Knowing, presumably, that they are legislating for the wise, merrily deranged citizens of San Francisco, exceptions are made for various street fairs and events (Folsom Street Fair, and the annual gay pride event, to name but a smidgen). More on point, the supervisors don’t want to fall foul of the First Amendment. [snip]

What an astonishingly ignorant proposition.  San Francisco has been a caricature of itself since it began its pretensions as a city of gold gazing across the Pacific, the liberal base for “anything goes”.  Any supervisor should be thrilled to know that his constituents are happy to go starkers, however flimsy their philosophical basis for doing so might be.  San Francisco is a Rabelaisian epic of a city, where bowels and genitals are courtiers keeping company.  It features the fallen, the deranged, the crippled, and the extravagant.

Apparently there were enough changes or amendments to the original proposal to require a second vote soon to pass the final version.  The attorney for the Naturists is Christine DiEdorado, who has filed an injunction in federal court to halt the measure.  Given that a group of protesting nudists marched on City Hall on Nov. 14, we might expect similar actions soon.

DiEdorado discusses the issue, including case law and boils the main issues down to three main questions:

Lost in the debate are three fundamental (at least to a criminal defense attorney like me) questions. First, is the conduct targeted by the proposed ordinance a protected activity? Second, assuming the government can restrict the behavior, are extant State laws sufficient? Third, has state legislation already preempted the field of regulation of nudity in public spaces?

She addresses the first question in part:

With regard to the first question, the general trend by courts in California seems to be not to grant First Amendment protection to public or private nudity unless the nudity is accompanied by or part of ” ‘some mode of expression which itself is entitled to first amendment protection.’ ” Elysium Institute, Inc. v. County of Los Angeles 232 Cal.App.3d 408, 424 283 Cal.Rptr. 688 (2nd Dist. 1991)[internal citations omitted].

Of course, this raises as many questions as it answers–and it’s almost an invitation to anyone who wants to go sky-clad to chant political slogans or carry a sign when they do so. What about a naked man with an #occupy cockring?

The second question to her seems to revolve around Wiener’s objection to cock rings, which the commenters on her piece discuss.  Given that understanding, she says:

Going back to the cockring “problem”, since the purpose of a cockring is to draw attention to the wearer’s genitals, wearing one in public while nude would appear to make one subject to arrest for violating PC 314(1) based on the plain language of the Smith case. Thus, existing state law is more than sufficient to deter the supposed problem to be remedied and the ordinance is unnecessary.

The third, she says, is a murky one, and I won’t bring any discussion since you can read it at the link.

Anyway, apparently this is all a bit of a Big Deal, and since I haven’t been to San Francisco for decades, I hadn’t known that nudity was big, nor that it was almost a cultural icon in the Castro district.

So stay tuned, and in the meanwhile, the Taiwanese Next Media Animation (NMA) folks are having some fun with it.

What do you think?  And if you were on the Board of Supervisors, how would you vote?  Warning: If you dissemble, a trap door will open and your chair will drop through the floor).  ;o)  Would you strip and march with the Naturists to City Hall?  If you’ve been to the City on the Bay and seen the nudists, were you okay with it?  If you’d had your children (actual or imaginary) with you, would have seemed okay?  Is nudity a First Amendment right?   Feel free to offer opinions at will.  ;o)

In the main, it’s the male nudists that are referenced so often, but in the Guardian’s coverage, the poster person is Gypsy Taub.  You’ll love the photo they used, methinks.  But as with the public outcry at the male nude posters advertising a show at the Leopold Museum in Vienna, were the objections gender-based?  Trying to dig my diary about it out of the Google cache, I found this headline from the 21st at Bloomberg: ‘Naked Men Draw Women, Enraged Philistines to Vienna’.  Hmmm.
(I’ll confess up front that for a life-long hippie, I’ve always been pretty modest, and have been to very few nude places, and wasn’t very comfortable being unclothed.

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