San Francisco lawmakers vote to ban public nudity

Associated Press Modified: November 20, 2012 at 9:46 pm •  Published: November 20, 2012
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco lawmakers disappointed committed nudists Tuesday by narrowly approving a ban on public nakedness despite concerns the measure would undermine the city's reputation as a sanctuary for free expression.

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 in favor of a public safety ordinance that prohibits exposed genitals in most public places, including streets, sidewalks and public transit. The law still must pass a final vote and secure Mayor Edwin Lee's signature to take effect early next year.

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the ban in response to escalating complaints about a group of men whose bare bodies are on display almost daily in the city's predominantly gay Castro District.

"The Castro, and San Francisco in general, is a place of freedom, expression and acceptance. But freedom, expression and acceptance does not mean anything goes under any circumstances," Wiener said Tuesday. "Our public spaces are for everyone, and as a result it's appropriate to have some minimal standards of behavior."

Wiener's opponents on the board said a citywide ban was unnecessary and would draw police officers' attention away from bigger problems while undermining San Francisco values like tolerance and appreciation for the offbeat.

"I'm concerned about civil liberties, about free speech, about changing San Francisco's style and how we are as a city," Supervisor John Avalos said. "I cannot and will not bite this apple and I refuse to put on this fig leaf."

To make his point, Avalos showed his colleagues a clip from the 1970 movie version of Joseph Heller's "Catch-22." In it, Orson Welles pins a medal on a naked soldier.