Women Took Off Their Tops To Fight San Francisco's New Public Nudity Ban

San Francisco nude banA protester speaks out against San Francisco’s decision to ban public nudity on Nov. 20, 2012.

Photo: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

San Francisco has banned public nudity in a vote that is likely to spark protests among the city’s many naturists.Two women stripped off as the result was read out at city hall on Tuesday. One said: “What are you afraid of? My government has failed me.”

Another man stripped off and chanted: “The body is beautiful.”

The vote went six to five in favour of the ban, which was supported by many residents and business owners in the city’s Castro district.

For the past two years, there has been an almost daily gathering of naked men at a plaza on the corner of Castro and Market streets – a busy commercial, tourism and transit point in the city’s famous gay area.

As soon as the ban was passed, one woman stood up and declared “this is not a democracy” before taking off her clothes.

Another lady in the gallery stood up and said: “I’m going to do it too” before removing her top. Two men followed suit.

Security removed a handful of others who had shouted their disapproval at the result of one of the most controversial votes the San Francisco city legislators have had in recent years.

The vote was close. Five of the 11 supervisors opposed the ban, largely on the grounds that they did not see the need for a city-wide ban to deal with a problem that is confined to one small area.

But supervisor Scott Wiener, who proposed the ban on nudity, said he had been hearing from upset residents of the Castro district for the past two years.

“This situation has changed” he said. “It’s no longer sporadic. It’s seven days a week in this neighbourhood where people live and work and conduct their lives.”

He said people were standing at the corner of Market and Castro, “displaying their genitals to anyone who is passing by. It is very much a ‘hey, look what I have’ mentality.”

While he recognised that Castro was a place of “freedom of expression,” he said: “That doesn’t mean we have no standards whatsoever.”

He was opposed by supervisor John Avalos, who said he was concerned that a ban on nudity would be an infringement of civil liberties. “Sometimes there is a little weirdness about how we express ourselves and that’s part of what is great in this city,” he said.

Outside city hall, protesters gathered to shout their disapproval of the ban, with some ignoring the cold to remove items of clothing.

Opponents of the ban have until at least February to continue to walk naked in public. As a point of procedure the board must have a second vote in two weeks as a number of amendments were made to the legislation prior to Monday’s decision.

A spokesperson for the law firm representing the pro-nudists said that a legal objection is also being filed.

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