Developing

San Francisco May Ban Nudity In Public Places

Local politicians in San Francisco are scheduled to vote on Tuesday on an bye-law that would prohibit nudity in most public places.

The blanket ban represents an escalation of a two-year dispute between a devoted group of men who strut their stuff through the city's famously gay Castro District and the local official who represents the area.

Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposal would make it illegal for a person over the age of five to "expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region on any public street, sidewalk, street median, parklet or plaza" or while using public transport.

A first offence would carry a maximum \$100 fine, but a third violation would be treated as a misdemeanour 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.

Mr Wiener said he resisted introducing the ordinance, but felt compelled to act after complaints about naked men gathering in a small Castro plaza.

He persuaded his colleagues last year to pass a law requiring a cloth to be placed between public seating and bare behinds, but the complaints continued.

"I think it's a caricature of what San Francisco is about," Mr Wiener said.

"I don't think having some guys taking their clothes off and hanging out seven days a week at Castro and Market Street is really what San Francisco is about."

Last week, about two dozen people disrobed in front of City Hall to protest.

While it may seem strange that going nude is not already illegal in San Francisco, most California cities do not have local nudity laws but rely upon state indecent exposure laws or peer pressure.

But the state laws technically only apply to lewd behaviour, so city officials have had to craft a local solution, like the other California cities of Berkeley and San Jose.