Judge: Public nudity not political speech
"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.
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