The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ban public nudity, with some exceptions for popular festivals and events.
The San Francisco Bay Guardianreports that the Board voted 6-5 in favor of the ban. Supervisors Mark Farrell, David Chiu, Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd, Malia Cohen and Scott Wiener all voted 'yes,' while progressives David Campos, Christina Olague, John Avalos, Eric Mar and Jane Kim cast dissenting votes.
Sup. Wiener, who represents, among other areas, the city's Castro district, a predominately gay neighborhood where public displays of nudity are somewhat common, sponsored the proposed ban.
"Public nudity can go too far. Freedom of expression and acceptance does not mean you can do whatever you want," Wiener said, even while acknowledging that such naked displays are "part of San Francisco and appropriate in some circumstances."
Accordingly, public nudity will still be allowed at certain festivals and events, such as the Folsom Street Fair, a BDSM and leather event that draws hundreds of thousands of mostly LGBT revelers each September, and the Bay to Breakers foot race, which for most participants really isn't so much of a race as it is a party in which 'runners' dress up in costumes or nothing at all.
Tuesday's vote angered nudists, their supporters and those who believe that San Francisco, where public nudity was perfectly legal, is a uniquely tolerant place that eschews the conformity that most of the rest of the nation embraces. Unruly citizens present for the vote erupted afterwards. Some stripped off their clothes and had to be escorted from the hall by sheriff's deputies. Nudity activist Gypsy Taub disrobed and was escorted outside, where at least one naked protester was sitting on the steps of City Hall.
Sup. Campos, one of the progressive bloc that voted against the ban, said he worried that law enforcement resources would be diverted from fighting real crime in areas like the Mission District he represents.
"I don't believe we're at the point of saying this becomes a priority over violent crime," Campos told the SFBG. Campos has complained about a lack of police foot patrols in the Mission, which shares a police station with Wiener's Castro.
Avalos, widely considered the most progressive supervisor, said that the city had far more serious issues to deal with, like poverty and violent crime. He also said he was "concerned about civil liberties, about free speech, about changing San Francisco's style and how we are as a city."
The measure still needs to pass one more Board vote and get Mayor Ed Lee's approval before taking effect in February 2013. CNN reports that penalties would range from $100 to $500, to as long as a year behind bars for those who break the law three times in a year.
The Associated Press reports that a federal lawsuit has been filed charging the city with violating the First Amendment rights of those who wish to express themselves by being naturally nude.