Judge: Public nudity not political speech
Demonstrators gather outside of City Hall in San Francisco to protest against the proposed city-wide nudity ban, in this Nov. 14, 2012 file photo. / AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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.
- Naked protesters disrupt final San Francisco nudity ban vote
- San Francisco sheds part of free-spirited past with public nudity ban
- Nude-friendly San Francisco considers covering up
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.
- no previous page
Popular on CBSNews.com
- Authorities find cause of Wash. bridge collapse 121 Comments
- Washington state bridge collapses 20 Photos
- No fatalities in I-5 bridge collapse in NW Wash. 135 Comments
- Kansas reporters run for tornado shelter during newscast
- Boy Scouts approve plan to accept openly gay boys 737 Comments
- Shelton, Underwood coming to aid of Oklahomans
- Clean-up efforts underway in Okla. 29 Photos
- Earthquake, multiple aftershocks jolt Californians