San Francisco's urban nudists have vowed to continue to walk the streets naked, despite a new law ordering them to cover up.
City lawmakers on Tuesday narrowly approved a ban on public nakedness by anyone aged over five, putting aside concerns the measure would undermine the city's reputation as a sanctuary for free expression.
The Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 in favour of a public safety ordinance that prohibits exposed genitals in most public places. The law still must pass a final vote and secure Mayor Edwin Lee's signature to take effect next year.
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. "The Castro, and San Francisco in general, is a place of freedom, expression and acceptance. But freedom, expression and acceptance does not mean anything goes under any circumstances," Wiener said Tuesday. "Our public spaces are for everyone, and as a result it's appropriate to have some minimal standards of behaviour."
Lloyd Fishbach, standing naked at the corner of Castro and Market, said it should be his choice to dress as he wants.
"I live in the Castro and I've been doing this since first grade," he said. "This is just a bunch of uptight Americans. But I'll keep doing it and if I see the cops coming I will run and hide."
Castro resident George Davis said there would be a backlash against the law and warned Wiener would face strong opposition in next year's election.
He added: "I told him that if this passes I will run against him and I will do it in the nude."
But many locals are fed up with urban nudists gathering on an almost daily basis for the past two years at a busy intersection.
The proposed ban makes exceptions for nudity during special occasions and on certain beaches, but Andrea Aiello, the executive director of the Castro Community Benefit District, said the current situation must end.
"Three or four years ago, there were occasionally nude men on Castro or Market, and it was fine, but since then there has been a larger and larger gathering," she said. "It's not a dead end or a beach; it's a busy transit district.
"There is an underground station and streetcars and buses, and people don't know when they're getting off a bus that they have to walk through this plaza where there are lots of naked men sitting around, displaying themselves spreadeagle. It has become a place for exhibitionism."
Under Wiener's proposal, a first offence would carry a maximum penalty of a US$100 fine, but a third violation could be punishable by a US$500 fine and a year in jail.
Additional reporting by Associated Press