‘Body Freedom’ Plaintiffs Settle Portion of Claims Over Nudity Arrests

Rhett Pardon

SAN FRANCISCO — Plaintiffs in a case challenging San Francisco’s nudity ordinance settled a portion of claims in the case yesterday.

The settlement includes a one-time payment from the city of San Francisco to the plaintiffs for $20,000, all of which will be given to the nudists’ legal team to cover a portion of legal fees.

The civil liberties case centers on arrests made when plaintiffs were found nude at Bay to Breakers and the Haight Street Fair, both events of which are covered by the exemption. 

San Francisco Police Code §154, passed on a 6 to 5 vote with significant opposition from 5 Supervisors and the public, made the act of nudity illegal in 2012, but the ban has specific exemptions for nudity at permitted fairs, festivals and parades, such as Bay to Breakers and the Haight Street Fair.

The San Francisco Police Department, however, ignored those exceptions and cited plaintiffs.

A win at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could protect the plaintiffs’ future right to use nudity to convey their political message of “body freedom,” which includes freedom from body shaming, according to plaintiffs’ attorney D. Gill Sperlein

“Judge Chen’s earlier rulings made it clear that the plaintiffs were going to succeed on 1st and 14th Amendment claims based on viewpoint discrimination,” Sperlein said.  “We have settled that claim so that we can focus on the claims that are the most important to the plaintiffs.” 

Sperlein said the reason those claims are important is that they would allow for injunctive relief preventing the San Francisco Police Department from interrupting nude events in the future.

Attorney Lawrence Walters, who was brought on to assist with the case given his victories in similar nudity cases in the South, said: “The settlement reached with the defendants provides important funding to continue litigating the important constitutional issues that pervade the ordinance.”

Plaintiff George Davis said: "I hope that the public realizes that this is a win for their own civil liberties, even if you're only a nudist under your clothes. I have made political speeches in the nude in various locations including Times Square. Let's hope that the 9thCircuit aligns itself with the reality based progressive world in their deliberations."