San Francisco - Two dozen pro-nudity activists wearing little but their righteous indignation assembled on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday to protest a proposed municipal ban on public nakedness.
“We are here today in response to an attack on our fundamental freedom, our freedom to be ourselves in our own city,” disrobed rally organiser Gypsy Taub declared as her fellow activists displayed signs saying, “Nudity is Natural” and “Nude is not Lewd.”
Local politicians in the famously tolerant city, where men in particular are known to frequently parade undressed through the streets of the predominantly gay Castro District, are considering a law to criminalise nudity on streets, sidewalks and plazas.
A hearing on measure by the city's Board of Supervisors is scheduled for next Tuesday.
Following the protest, attorney Christina DiEdoardo filed suit on behalf of the nudists seeking to block the proposed nudity ban from enactment.
She contends that a prohibition on public nakedness would deprive her five clients, one of them a former mayoral candidate who ran on a nudist platform, of their constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection under law.
“The city is getting into trying to legislate and criminally enforce a dress code,” she told Reuters. “My clients are trying to save the Board of Supervisors from acting unconstitutionally.”
“Nudophobic bigotry has now taken root here in San Francisco,” Rusty Mills, 69, stripped down to his tanned birthday suit, told his fellow demonstrators as they stood in the sunshine of an unseasonably warm autumn day.
The nude protesters, including one using a cane and another in a wheelchair, walked with DiEdoardo two blocks to the federal courthouse, where an officer refused to allow them to enter disrobed. DiEdoardo, who was fully clothed, went inside to file the court papers.
On the way back to City Hall, elementary school children playing on a schoolyard gawked and pointed at the naked demonstrators.
Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the proposal to curb undressing after residents complained about a daily gathering of naked men in Jane Warner Plaza, a square in the Castro District. He called the lawsuit a baseless “publicity stunt”.
“There's always been occasional public nudity in San Francisco. Over the last two years it's gone from being this quirky, occasional thing to an obnoxious, over-the-top thing,” Wiener said in an interview.
“A lot of people who live in the neighbourhood are just sick of the fact that seven days a week there are men taking their pants off and displaying their genitals on our sidewalks and plaza,” he added.
Under the proposed law, which critics dubbed the “Wiener bill”, nudity would still be allowed at permitted parades, fairs and festivals, as well as on designated nude beaches.
Violators would be fined up to $100 for a first offence and $200 for a second. Three-time offenders would face up to a year in jail and a $500 fine. - Reuters