The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Breaking News

January 18, 2013

Judge considers San Francisco's public nudity ban

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge considering San Francisco's public nudity ban rejected arguments Thursday that simply disrobing in public was protected political speech akin to flag burning.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen made his comments during a 90-minute hearing held to consider the new law requiring the covering of "genitals, perineum, and anal region" that is set to go into effect on Feb. 1.

A narrowly divided Board of Supervisors passed the law last month after residents and visitors to the city's renowned Castro district complained about what they called unsightly and unsanitary nudity in a plaza in the heart of the gay neighborhood.

Public nudity activists filed a federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate the law, arguing the government-ordered cover-up violates their 1st Amendment rights to express their political views. Their supporters also complained the law contradicts the city's live-and-let-live reputation.

But U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen said Thursday it takes more than simply disrobing in public to make a political statement, as he rejected arguments that a public nudity ban was akin to outlawing the burning of the American flag.

"Flag burning has a pretty clear message," he said, while a naked person in public could be simply sunbathing.

"Being nude, it seems to me, doesn't have the same obvious particularized message," he said after the hearing held to consider the competing legal demands by the city's attorney and activists.

The judge said he would issue a written ruling on the competing requests before the end of the month.

The city wants the judge to toss out the lawsuit, while activists were requesting Chen block the ban from going into effect until the legal action is resolved.

If the ban becomes law, a first offense carries a maximum penalty of a $100 fine, but prosecutors would have authority to charge a third violation as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and a year in jail.

"Mere nudity is not a criminal offense," Christina DiEardo, a lawyer for the nudists, told the judge, noting that state law only criminalizes nudity such as indecent exposure.

She also argued that disrobing these days in San Francisco is de facto political speech because of the law and the publicity surrounding it. An hour before the hearing, two activists demonstrated naked in front of the federal courtroom along with several other supporters in various states of undress.

But deputy city attorney Tara Steeley said San Francisco does have the authority to pass its own law banning simple nudity.

"Government has a duty to protect the public that does not wish to be exposed to nudity on the streets," she told the judge. "Business is suffering in the Castro. Numerous citizens are no longer visiting the neighborhood."

The public nudity debate in San Francisco began about two years ago when the Board of Supervisors passed legislation requiring nudists to place clothing or a towel between them in restaurants and on public benches and seating areas. That law enflamed political passions and prompted even more nudists to start gathering in the plaza, prompting complaints from nearby businesses that the activists were scaring away customers.

After three rambunctious meeting that included naked protests and arrests, the supervisors last month on a 6-5 vote passed the law that bans the public nudity with certain exceptions. The law exempts children younger than 5 and public nudity at certain events such as an annual street fair, the city's Gay Pride Parade and its Bay-to-Breakers foot race, which is noted for the wacky costumes — or lack thereof — of participants.

 

1
Text Only
Breaking News
  • Public smoke-out marks pot holiday in Colorado

    Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the April 20 pot holiday, a once-underground celebration that stepped into the mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

    April 20, 2014

  • Miss America: Rethink suspension over prom query

    Miss America is asking a Pennsylvania school district to reconsider the punishment of a high school senior who asked her to prom during the question-and-answer portion of an assembly.

    April 20, 2014

  • 2 Indianapolis fires leave 1 dead, 20 displaced Two Indianapolis fires have left one man dead and about 20 residents of an apartment building looking for new homes.

    April 20, 2014

  • Ellspermann, Susan Ellspermann to deliver AU commencement address Indiana Lt. Gov. Susan Ellspermann will address the Anderson University Class of 2014 during commencement exercises on Saturday, May 10.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 500 Festival Mini Marathon might not fill field

    With less than two weeks to go, the 38th 500 Festival Mini Marathon might not have a full field for the first time in 12 years.

    April 20, 2014

  • Turner case tests bounds of 'citizen legislature'

    When a legislative ethics panel meets this week to review the case of House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, members could have trouble finding clear-cut answers, in large part because of the Indiana General Assembly's status as a "citizen legislature."

    April 20, 2014

  • news_popefrancis.jpg Pope Francis, huge crowd joyously celebrate Easter

    Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity's most joyous and hopeful day, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria and for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted many Christians.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_24restaurants.jpg Mayor's menu filled up: One day, 24 restaurants

    Jenkintown (Pa.) Mayor Ed Foley, in a gut-busting campaign to draw attention to the tiny borough's varied restaurant scene, set out to visit all 24 of them on Saturday, starting with a pre-dawn visit to IHOP.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_ukraine.jpg US weighing military exercises in Eastern Europe

    The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_skoreaferry.jpg 10 more bodies found inside sunken ferry by divers

    Divers recovered 13 bodies from inside a ferry that sank off South Korea, pushing the confirmed death toll to 46, officials said Sunday. The discovery came after rescuers finally gained access to the inside of the ship following three days of failure and frustration caused by strong currents and bad visibility due to inclement weather.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Oscar Pistorius' murder trial has gripped South Africa and sports fans worldwide. If he is found guilty of premeditated murder he faces 25 years to life in prison. Do you think he intentionally shot his girlfriend?

Yes
No
Unsure
     View Results