Supervisors OK Nudity Ban
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave final approval to the city’s nudity ban, setting the stage for Mayor Ed Lee to sign the ordinance, which is expected to go into effect in February but is already the subject of a federal lawsuit.
The board voted 6-5 Tuesday, December 4 for the second time on the ban, proposed by gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. The ban prohibits nudity in most public places, but specifies that events such as the Folsom and Castro Street fairs and the Pride Parade are exempt.
The vote was the same as the initial one last month with Supervisors Wiener, Mark Farrell, David Chiu, Carmen Chu, Malia Cohen, and Sean Elsbernd voting in favor and Supervisors David Campos, Christina Olague, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, and John Avalos voting against it.
Once the ban becomes law, violators will be fined $100 for a first offense, and $200 for a second offense. Third time offenders would face a $500 fine and up to a year in jail. Those convicted under the law will not be required to register as sex offenders.
A group of about a half dozen nudists responded to the bill’s passage Tuesday by stripping down inside City Hall amid shouts of "shame on you!" Sheriff’s deputies quickly covered the protesters with blankets and escorted them out of the board chambers.
The controversy over the nudists’ near daily gatherings in Jane Warner Plaza escalated to a fever pitch ahead of the board’s action Tuesday. Gay nudist Mitch Hightower, a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against the city challenging the ban, issued a poster that compared comments made about public nudity by former Supervisor Dan White in 1978 to similar comments recently made by Wiener. White, of course, went on to murder gay Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in November 1978.
Hightower’s poster features side by side photos of White and Wiener, with the following quotes: "I see naked men walking around which doesn’t bother me as far as my personal standards of nudity, but it’s just not proper," - Supervisor Dan White, 1978.
"I don’t have a problem with nudity in general, but it’s not proper to expose your genitals on the street corner for hours and hours." - Supervisor Scott Wiener, 2012.
Attorney Christina A. DiEdoardo, who represents Hightower and three others in their lawsuit challenging the ban, downplayed the poster.
"I can’t see why people are upset with the comparison, which appears apt on several levels," DiEdoardo said in a statement to the Bay Area Reporter. "Both former Supervisor White and current Supervisor Wiener have openly declared war on nudists, so comparing the two seems to me to be perfectly legitimate in a way that comparing Supervisor Wiener to, say, Attila the Hun, wouldn’t be."
Other opponents of the nudity ban, including out supervisors who voted against it, were critical of the White comparison.
"I find these kinds of comments extreme and this kind of character assassination unfortunate and unnecessary," said Olague. "While I don’t agree with Supervisor Wiener on this particular issue, I believe the policy arguments opposing this are valid and, in this instance, not necessary to resort to this."
Campos also voiced concern.
"Such comments are offensive and completely reprehensible," he said. "I disagree with Supervisor Wiener but I respect him and his position. It’s simply wrong to try and demonize him. Such comments also do a disservice to both sides of the issue."
Also taken to task as the debate heated up were statements by supporters of the ban, some of whom posted online comments referring to the nudists as "pasty old trolls," or questioning why "attractive people" don’t practice public nudism.
"The legislation has nothing to do with the physical appearance of the naked guys," said Wiener. "I couldn’t care less how they look, and in any event, beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
He also said that while he respects opposition to legislation he proposes, he encourages people to "stick to their actual arguments against the law rather than personalize this to me."
Some gays also decried the extremism.
"We’re living in a world where we’ve been so numbed by hateful rhetoric that people feel they must resort to the extreme just to get attention," said Leon Acord, a gay man who spends a lot of time in the Castro. Acord told the Bay Area Reporter that he favors the ban but does not approve of language that denigrates the nudists’ physical appearances. "To me, that just makes the person seem out of touch with reality. If you’re right, you’re position alone should be enough."
Hightower did not respond to the B.A.R. ’s email request for statements. On his Facebook page, he called the ban’s passage "a sad day for San Francisco" and vowed to continue fighting the nudity ban through his lawsuit.