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San Francisco Takes 1st Step Toward Public-Nudity Ban

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

San Francisco's liberal reputation may take a hit if a proposed public-nudity ban becomes law. In a dramatic meeting Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors took the first step toward making that happen.

Currently the city allows nudity in public, but the new law would ban genital exposure in public places.

Like any local government meeting, supporters and detractors showed up to speak their mind. But because the issue was nudity, the meeting was quite a sight to behold.

Protestors stripped down in the middle of the meeting to "voice" their dislike of the proposed law. While they weren't arrested, the naked protesters were covered up and escorted out of the room, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

You can see that for yourself in this video report by San Francisco's KPIX-TV:

Public nudity is prohibited in most cities because of health and safety concerns. While critics claim such bans violate free speech, courts generally find the restrictions serve a legitimate government interest.

People who are naked in public aren't necessarily "talking," but free speech extends to actions that send a message, called symbolic speech. Like any free speech rights, symbolic speech can be limited in the face of legitimate government interests.

The law narrowly passed its first reading, with a 6-5 vote by the supervisors.

Residents who objected noted the legislation would take law enforcement resources from more important concerns, like violent crime, reports CBS News.

Supporters of the ban broke into applause after the votes were counted, but the battle isn't over. The ordinance will have to pass a second reading as well before it goes to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

If the ordinance reaches that point, it will likely be signed into law. Lee is a supporter of the measure.

The bill was proposed by Supervisor Scott Weiner after constituents complained about "naked guys" hanging around on the street. Nudity in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood is apparently of more concern to many residents than homelessness and transportation problems.

Detractors of San Francisco's proposed public-nudity ban aren't waiting to see what happens. They've already filed a lawsuit in federal court.

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