"I don't want young people thinking that half-dressing is the way to go. I want them to think about their future," the amendment's sponsor, city councilman C.T. Martin, said Wednesday.
Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, said the law could not be enforced in a nondiscriminatory way because it targets something that came out of the black youth culture.
"This is a racial profiling bill that promotes and establishes a framework for an additional type of racial profiling," she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for its Thursday editions.
The proposed ordinance would also bar women from showing the strap of a thong beneath their pants. They would also be prohibited from wearing jogging bras in public or show a bra strap, Seagraves said.
The proposed ordinance states that "the indecent exposure of his or her undergarments" would be unlawful in a public place. It would go in the same portion of the city code that outlaws sex in public and the exposure or fondling of genitals.
Martin, who is black, said he plans to hold public hearings and vet the proposal through churches, civil rights groups and neighborhood organizations.
"The purpose of the paper is to generate some conversation to see if we can find a solution," Martin said. "It will be like all the discussions we've had around the value of the hip-hop culture. We know there are First Amendment issues ... and some will say I'm just trying to put young black men in jail, but it's going to be fines."
The penalty would be a fine in an amount to be determined, Martin said.
Any legislation that creates a dress code would not survive a court challenge, Seagraves said.
Atlanta would not be the first city to take on sagging pants.
Earlier this year, the town council in Delcambre, La., passed an ordinance that carries a fine of up to $500 or six months in jail for exposing underwear in public. Several other municipalities and parish governments in Louisiana have enacted similar laws in recent months.