SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco lawmakers are getting ready to bare their decision on a proposed ban on public nakedness that has sparked indignation in a city known for flouting convention and flaunting its counter-culture image.
The 11-member Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the ordinance, which would prohibit exposed genitals in most public places, including streets, sidewalks and public transit.
Scott Wiener, the supervisor who represents San Francisco's predominantly gay Castro District, introduced the measure in response to escalating complaints about a group of men whose dishabille is an almost daily occurrence.
"Some people have tried to paint this issue as some sort of a gay rights issue, and it really isn't," Wiener, who is gay, said. "It has nothing to do with gay rights. This is about behavior in our neighborhoods and trying to be respectful of one another."
A federal lawsuit claiming the ban would violate the free speech rights of people who prefer to make a statement by going au naturel was filed last week in case the ordinance passes.
"Freedom is not something man gives anyone. It's something we all—men, women, children—are born with and then people come in and try to erase it from you and if you won't let that go they want to silence you, they want to banish you and they want to burn you at the stake," Ckiara Rose, one of two dozen activists who staged a nude protest in front of City Hall last week.
Because clothes are required to enter City Hall itself, demonstrators who try to disrobe at the Board of Supervisors meeting will be escorted out by sheriff's deputies.
Under Weiner's proposal, a first offense would carry a maximum penalty of a $100 fine, but prosecutors would have authority to charge a third violation as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and a year in jail. Exemptions would be made for participants at permitted street fairs and parades, such as the city's annual gay pride event and the Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates sadomasochism and other sexual subcultures.