San Francisco to vote on public nudity ban

San Francisco lawmakers vote Tuesday on a proposal to outlaw most public nudity, despite protests in the famously free and easy West Coast city.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on an ordinance proposed by Scott Wiener, whose Castro neighborhood is a gay haven known also for the Naked Guys, who routinely let it all hang out in public.

The city law would ban anyone over five years old from exposing their genitals or anal region in public, with fines starting at $100 for a first offense, but rising to $500 and a year in jail for a third offense.

Wiener, a 15-year resident of the neighborhood who has long fought for laws to be tightened up, condemned a lawsuit launched last week to try to preempt his new ordinance.

A group of naked protesters demonstrated outside City Hall in support of the legal action, which claims that banning nudity would breach their right to free speech.

Lawyer Christina DiEdoardo, who filed the action on behalf of a group including Gypsy Taub -- who staged a naked protest at a previous Board of Supervisors' meeting -- defended their rights.

"I'm trying to protect the rights of my clients to engage in protected political speech, which is guaranteed by the US constitution," she told the broadcaster.

But Wiener told ABC7 television: "The lawsuit is ... from what I can tell a publicity stunt, it seems pretty frivolous to me," adding that nudity restrictions were already common across the US and in parts of California.

Home to the gay rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the Castro -- where sex shops coexist with trendy cafes and bars -- is still one of the most free-thinking neighborhoods in this famously liberal city.

It is "ground zero" when it comes to public nudity, particularly Jane Warner Plaza, an enclosed seating area at the throbbing intersection of Castro and Market streets, the councillor said.

California state law prohibits exposing one's genitals "with lewd intent" -- but the way the law is applied in San Francisco, what's lewd is in the eye of the beholder.

Under the proposed ordinance, exceptions would be made for a number of events, including the annual Pride Parade and the Bay to Breakers run, a historic costume-optional race, according to the Los Angeles Times.

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee, who would have to sign the ordinance into law, has made his views clear. "We're talking much more than just first amendment rights," he told ABC7.

"People have gone overboard with their exhibitionism," he added.

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