San Francisco nudists’ latest court action flops

A federal judge has declined to issue a temporary restraining order blocking San Francisco’s new public-nudity law.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled Thursday that nudists failed to present specific evidence of how the nudity ban has infringed their constitutional rights, or of why they’d be likely to succeed if the case went to trial.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors late last year adopted an ordinance barring people from baring their genitals on public streets, sidewalks, and most other public rights-of-way as well as on transit vehicles and in transit stations. Exceptions were carved out for permitted events and festivals, and for children under the age of five.

Chen in January issued an order dismissing these same nudists’ effort to keep the law from taking effect Feb. 1. His order back then sided with the city’s arguments that the constitutionality of local restrictions on public nudity has been repeatedly upheld in the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and that such bans are a valid and longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation.

Thursday’s ruling dealt with an “as-applied” challenge filed last week, after the law was in effect, claiming the city and its police were chilling their First Amendment rights to engage as in political speech as nudists by taking them into custody rather than writing them tickets for violating the law. The city countered that the nudists have no constitutional right to expose themselves in public.

“And Plaintiffs do not explain, much less submit any evidence demonstrating, how the ordinance prevents them from engaging in political speech or artistic expression,” Deputy City Attorney Tara Steeley wrote in the city’s brief. “Plaintiffs remain free to express any message they want. They simply must cover their ‘genitals, perineum, or anal region’ while on streets, sidewalks and certain other public places.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR senile columnist

    Why is it so many unsightly people want to go around nude?