San Francisco approves nudity ban
What started out as a discussion about whether people could stroll naked through this liberal city's storied streets ended up Tuesday afternoon as a discussion about the role of local government.
Faced with complaints about a band of so-called Naked Guys gathering daily in the Castro District, Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation last month to ban public nudity citywide, except for at permitted festivals and parades.
"This legislation has strong support in the community," Wiener said to kick off the discussion before Tuesday's vote. "I'm talking about support from everyday citizens who live and work in this wonderful neighborhood."
The stricture wasn't the brainchild of business owners, as some naturists have claimed, nor did straight couples with children raise a fuss about freedom of expression -- and freedom from clothing -- in the heart of gay San Francisco.
Nope, "the dominant demographic expressing concern is gay men," Wiener told his colleagues, as he implored them to expand on an earlier ordinance requiring clothing in restaurants and a barrier between naked bodies and public seating.
But the more progressive supervisors weren't buying it. Outgoing Supervisor Christina Olague called the proposal "a solution in search of a problem." Supervisor Eric Mar described the Naked Guys' behavior as "an isolated community incident" and well below the level of what the august body should be considering.
Supervisor John Avalos played a clip from the movie "Catch 22" of a soldier getting a medal in the nude because his uniform was covered with blood. He called the Naked Guys' daily strolls "inconsequential nudity" and said their impact was "meaningless."
Their point: That one neighborhood's problem was just that. A body such as the supervisors, they posited, had more weighty citywide matters to ponder.
Opponents of the nudity ban cheered. But only briefly.
Because when the final vote was taken, the supervisors cast their ballots 6 to 5 on Tuesday to require clothing under most circumstances on the streets of San Francisco.
The Naked Guys (and Gals) were not happy.
"It's not a legitimate government!" one shouted. "You're voting against the majority of the people," yelled another. "Shame!"
And with that, the Board of Supervisors took a 10-minute break.
-- Maria L. La Ganga in San Francisco
Photo: Demonstrators gather outside City Hall in San Francisco on Nov. 14 at a protest against the proposed nudity ban. Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press