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SF's Most Notorious Nudist Stakes Her Claim to History 

Wednesday, Dec 2 2015
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Sperlein is the second attorney to take up Taub's cause. The first, Christina DiEdoardo, dropped her client after "payment issues" arose. (DiEdoardo didn't respond to a request for comment. Taub says that five plaintiffs, including George Davis, signed onto the initial suit, and that none of them could agree how to divvy up the legal fees.)

That initial complaint was straightforward: DiEdoardo filed a class action suit against the city of San Francisco, deeming the nudity ban unconstitutional. The court dismissed the suit because it was filed three months before the ban even went into effect; in legal parlance, the ordinance wasn't yet "ripe" for litigation.

An amended complaint was filed in March 2013, shortly after which DiEdoardo stopped representing her clients, possibly because she wasn't being paid. Taub and Davis started shopping for a new attorney.

Initially, Sperlein declined. He was close friends with Scott Wiener and had worked on the supervisor's campaign committee. In turn, Wiener had supported Sperlein for a position on the city's Entertainment Commission. Representing a client who so frequently and fervently denounced Wiener would be a betrayal, Sperlein thought.

The San Francisco Police Department changed his mind.

In 2014, the SFPD cited Taub for appearing nude at the annual Bay to Breakers race (in fairness, she was wearing a hat bearing the slogan "Recall Wiener"). Sperlein contends that the event is a well-known, permitted exemption to the nudity ban, and that Taub should never have been penalized. Moreover, in a brief filed in July 2014, he argued that police are discriminatory in how they enforce the nudity ban.

As evidence, he points to the World Naked Bike Ride and the Critical Mass bike rides as events where multiple nude participants weren't cited. According to him, the reason is simple politicking.

"If you live in San Francisco, you know the kind of clout the Bike Coalition has, so it's not surprising the police doesn't go after them," Sperlein says. Instead, the police continue to harass comparative political lightweights like Taub.

Another example of discrimination: Taub applied for nude parade permits 10 times in the last two years, but, according to Sperlein, was "ignored or denied each time." In one instance, the city informed Taub she was ineligible for a parade permit because the 50 to 100 nude attendees she expected didn't constitute a parade. Yet, nowhere does the city police code specify a minimum number of participants to declare a parade.

In June, the city settled Taub's discrimination claim for $20,000, a move that saved taxpayers needless expense and resolved "an evidence-intensive legal sideshow," according to City Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey.

And in September, Sperlein won a temporary restraining order that prevented the city and the SFPD from denying a permit for the "nude-in" and parade that Taub held at Jane Warner Plaza that month.

But the elephant in the case, so to speak, remains. Is Taub's nudity protected free speech?

Sperlein, a veteran First Amendment attorney who often represents sex workers and the porn industry, argues that "the most challenging and provocative speech is upsetting. It's also the most effective." He compares Taub to pro-life activists who picket abortion clinics with images of dead fetuses. While bystanders may prefer not to see naked people (or dead fetuses), the First Amendment protects the rights of both naked and pro-life activists to protest however they want.

Taub claims that nudity is her message. Hollywood and Madison Avenue fetishize unrealistic, unattainable bodies, she says, but her nudity is a public service announcement that this is what a body looks like. It's a message of self-acceptance presented in deliberately confrontational terms.

Take, for example, Taub's children. They often appear naked alongside their mother at public protests. A trio of nude kids — two of whom are visibly pubescent — is taboo enough to make some observers question Taub's parental ethics.

"I wouldn't want to pay her psychiatry bills when those kids are older," says Cox, the Castro resident who was in City Hall the day Taub's children testified (clothed) in support of nudity. He dubs the family's dynamic "creepy."

Andrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, says she finds the children's nudity "concerning."

Sperlein won't even talk on record about Taub's children, saying only that he's a "First Amendment absolutist" who wouldn't presume to counsel Taub about her family.

Taub, frankly, doesn't give a shit what anyone thinks about her parenting skills. "It's okay to be nude until you're five, so how's it different if you're 10? I don't see any reason why this is wrong. Abuse doesn't happen in the middle of downtown San Francisco."

State law is on Taub's side. According to Sylvia Deporto of Child Protective Services, no child welfare agency in California takes a position on raising kids as nudists. She adds that CPS in San Francisco has never traced child nudity to a credible risk to the child's safety.

"And if it's sanctioned by the city, as with a permit, I don't see how we can intervene anyway," Deporto adds.

For some Castro neighbors, that Taub protests at all in San Francisco is galling. Both Cox and Aiello say that Taub, a Berkeley resident, should keep her nude circus in the East Bay.

To that, Taub replies that she's a "citizen of the world" with as much right to demonstrate in San Francisco as, say, Scott Wiener. Geographic boundaries are "bullshit" anyway, she adds.

Even if Taub's critics are willing to concede her naked children and her impinging on their neighborhood, they're not likely to accept that she has to go the full monty to share her message. After all, women can still go topless under the nudity ban. (In the aftermath of the ban's passage, Taub would protest in Jane Warner Plaza with a purple strapon, thus keeping her vulva covered and her act street legal.)

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Jeremy Lybarger

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