San Francisco Ordinance Banning Nudity

cross-posted from Constitutional Law Professors blog November 15, 2012

San Francisco Ordinance 120984 banning public nudity was the subject of a constitutional challenge filed in federal court before it was even officially adopted.

The complaint alleges that the proposed ordinance violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause.  One of the more interesting arguments flows from one of the proposed ordinance’s two exceptions: any person under the age of five years, and “any permitted parade, fair, or festival held under a City or other government issued permit.”

The more generalized First Amendment challenge to a law banning nudity is not likely to succeed under the federal constitution.


However, the California constitution could certainly be construed to protect nude expression.  And even more compelling are the political and social arguments presented to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that focus on San Francisco’s identity as a haven for free expression, including nudity.