San Francisco has shed a vestige of its free-spirited past after a ban on public nudity was narrowly approved.
Casting aside complaints that forcing people to cover up would undermine San Francisco’s reputation as a city without inhibitions, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 on Tuesday night in favour of a law that prohibits exposed genitals in most public places, including streets, pavements and public transport.
Boos filled the board’s chambers after the vote. Gypsy Taub, a nudist activist who organised naked protests and marches in the weeks leading up to the meeting, undressed in protest before sheriff’s deputies escorted her from the room.
A federal lawsuit seeking to block the ban has already been filed.
Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the ban in response to escalating complaints about a group of men whose bare bodies are on display almost daily in the city’s predominantly gay Castro district. He said at Tuesday’s meeting that he resisted for almost two years, but finally felt compelled to act.
“It’s no longer an occasional and quirky part of San Francisco. Rather, in the Castro, it’s pretty much seven days a week,” Wiener said. “It’s very much a ‘Hey, look what I have’ mentality.”
Wiener’s opponents on the board said a ban was unnecessary and would draw police officers’ attention away from bigger problems.
Supervisor John Avalos also expressed concerns about what the ban would do to San Francisco’s image.
“We are a beacon of light to other parts of the country, and sometimes there is a little bit of weirdness about how we express ourselves,” Avalos said.