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The Naked Truth about San Francisco's Nudity Ban
Scott Wiener (no, I am not trying to be rude: this is the guy's real name), the supervisor of the Castro district of San Francisco, introduced legislation that would ban public nudity city-wide. First offense is a $100 fine; third violation up to a $500 fine and a year in jail. Exemptions would be made for a few permitted events, such as the gay pride parade and the Folsom Street Fair.
Even though, according to a Zogby poll, 63% of San Franciscans do not object to non-sexual public nudity, Scott Wiener justifies his city-wide ban with the fact that he got complaints about a group of naked men hanging out at Jane Warner Plaza.
San Franciscans were shocked to hear about the legislation that would criminalize nudity in their city that has always been known for its freedom of self-expression and its fascinating radical culture. It had liberated the country and, to a great extent, the whole world in the 1960s and in the following years. San Francisco, known for its tolerance, its open mind and its open heart, became a safe haven for gays, a center for political activism and a melting pot of immigrants from all over the world. It was its spirit of liberation and celebration of life that made San Francisco the beacon of light that it once was and largely still is.
Halloween parties in the Castro (the gay district) were some of the most amazing and real celebrations of body freedom and freedom of the heart. Creativity and humor made you laugh nonstop all night, out-of-this-world costumes and art made your head spin, warm smiles and words of love coming from strangers made you feel at home, nudity and artistic sexual self-expression challenged your inhibitions and inspired you to shed the shield of body shame and fear.
As the establishment grew more and more fearful of this freedom, they made their attempts to destroy the spirit of Castro Halloween. But spirit doesn't die, and a lot of that creative energy gloriously manifested itself at Burning Man, where it was eagerly embraced and flourished even more.
Burning Man is a like-no-other annual festival in a desert of Nevada that attracted 65,000 people from all over the world this past fall. It started on the Ocean Beach of San Francisco. Burning Man is considered to be the most life-changing, mind-opening and heart-warming festival experience in the US. Along with creative self-expression and heart-to-heart communication, body freedom is one of its core focuses.
Most of its organizers and many of its participants are from San Francisco. In a way, Burning Man represents what San Francisco would be like without the government.
Can you imagine, then, how it must feel for the people of San Francisco to be forced to turn back the cultural progress of the past half a century and to return to the Dark Ages of body shame and sexual repression?
According to the declaration of independence of the United States, people have unalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Many people in San Francisco believe that body freedom is an inalienable right.
Scott Wiener's nudity ban violates two constitutional amendments. It violates the first amendment: the right to freedom of speech and self-expression. It also violates the 14th amendment, which guarantees equal protection rights. By making exceptions for a few permitted events, the legislation creates inequality. People who can afford the permits and the costly insurance for such events will be able to host clothing-optional festivals, while others won't. The legislation also violates California state law, which does not criminalize non-sexual nudity.
We organized numerous protests in front of the City Hall. On 14 November, a couple dozen nude activists accompanied by their clothed supporters and international media marched to the federal building and filed a class action law suit against the city. It challenges the nudity ban as unconstitutional. The court hearing is scheduled for 17 January 2013.
At the preliminary hearing for the legislation on 5 November, I took off my clothes and called the nudity ban unconstitutional, un-American and outright fascist. I was dragged out of the hearing room and continued my speech in the hallway while pinned to the wall by the sheriff's deputies. This protest was covered by many news outlets and gained international attention. The video went viral on the internet.
On 20 November, after a heated debate, the board of supervisors passed the nudity ban in a tight vote of 6 to 5. The public was outraged. People were booing and yelling at the supervisors. I ripped my clothes off and yelled:
"You voted against the majority of the people; this is not a government, this is a whore house!"
I called the supervisors who supported the ban "gutless puppets" and told them that if they have no guts, they should stay home. I was dragged out of the hearing while numerous other people followed my example and ripped their clothes off while yelling: "Recall Wiener!" and "Scott Wiener is a Republican clone!"
Urban nudists plan on releasing a book about body freedom and the recent events. We will have another protest in front of the City Hall on 30 November, a few days before the final vote takes place on 4 December.
I personally have a lot of faith in our lawsuit. As our attorney Christina DiEdoardo put it:
"Is the first amendment more powerful and more important than the passions of an intolerant mob and the ambitions of one or more city supervisors? We would contend that it is and that's what our case is based upon."
Regardless of how the next vote and the lawsuit pan out, we will overturn this legislation – no matter what it takes. We may not have the money and the political clout that some of these politicians have, but we have the city of San Francisco and progress on our side.