Angry nudists briefly disrobed and shouted their disapproval at City Hall on Tuesday, shortly after the Board of Supervisors narrowly voted to approve a citywide ban on public nakedness.
The legislation, proposed last month by Supervisor Scott Wiener, was prompted by mounting complaints from his Castro neighborhood district, he said. The impromptu “nude-in” delayed the board’s proceedings by about 30 minutes, and Sheriff’s Department deputies had blue blankets ready to cover the demonstrators, some of whom were escorted out of the building.
Throngs of media members, including a small Norwegian documentary film crew, were on hand to witness the latest chapter in what has become the primary national news story coming out of San Francisco in recent days.
During the brief intermission, supervisors stood near the front of the chambers and watched the melee, with some expressing looks of disapproval and others simply smiling.
Although The City had no law banning nudity on streets and sidewalks before Tuesday, nudity in City Hall has been forbidden for decades. Wiener characterized the measure as a “narrow expansion” of anti-nudity codes that already exist for San Francisco’s city parks and Port property.
Areas such as the nude section of Baker Beach, and annual events such as the Folsom Street Fair and the Zazzle Bay to Breakers footrace, can still include nudity under the new law, Wiener noted. The supervisor, who faced shouts of “recall” and claims that he is a “Republican clone,” said earlier in the meeting that public nudity is indeed “part of San Francisco,” and “appropriate in some cases.”
“But public nudity can go too far,” Wiener said, noting that instances of nudity are no longer “quirky” or “random and sporadic,” but rather a constant part of his district’s street life that has become disturbing for many. “It’s very much a, ‘Hey, look what I have’ mentality.”
Supervisor David Campos, who voted against the measure, argued that allowing nudity in some instances and not in others sets a dangerous legal framework if The City is challenged on First Amendment grounds. Campos also argued that police officers who serve both the Castro district and his neighboring Mission district should not be stretched too thin on priorities such as enforcing a nudity ban when they are also charged with combating gang violence.
Christina DiEdoardo, an attorney representing the nudists, plans to challenge the ban on free expression grounds in Federal District Court after the legislation is officially passed Dec. 4. The City generally does not begin enforcing new laws until associated court challenges are settled, meaning that if a judge rules that the Board of Supervisors was within its constitutional authority in approving the ban, sidewalk nakedness could come to an end some time in 2013.
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