Gay Man Sues Over Thong Discrimination
SAN DIEGO (CN) - A gay man claims in Federal Court that he has the "dubious distinction" of being the first person in San Diego history to be arrested for public nudity for wearing thong underwear under a gladiator kilt, at a gay pride event.
Will X. Walters claims city police selectively enforced a municipal policy on public nudity, which allows women to wear g-strings and thongs, but not gay men.
Walters also claims that San Diego Pride "wholeheartedly endorsed" the policy, to "curry favor" with the police department, to appeal to mainstream sponsors, and to make the event palatable to straight people and families.
"Will Walters is a Hispanic, gay man who owns the dubious distinction of being the only person in the history of the City of San Diego to be arrested and booked on a charge of public nudity," the complaint states. "Mr. Walters was arrested for public nudity at the 2011 Lesbian Gay Bi-Sexual Transgender Pride ('Pride') event while wearing an opaque gladiator type kilt over black underwear. Under any definition, he was not nude, as his buttocks and genitalia were fully covered. Nonetheless, he was ushered out of the event, humiliated, arrested, and incarcerated."
Named as defendants are the City of San Diego, Lt. Nieslit, Sgt. Mondesir, Officer Ramirez, Officer Gardner, Officer '3329,' San Diego Pride, head of Pride security, Shawn Chamberlain, and Does 1-30.
According to Walters, the city's enforcement of its public nudity law "essentially allows thongs, g-strings, and other skimpy bathing suits to be worn by participants and attendees at straight special events, but not by attendees and participants at the one gay special event, Pride."
Walters claims that after he bought a $20 ticket, he "was readily admitted into the 2011 event by San Diego Pride personnel."
"He was dressed in leather gear consisting of boots, a black leather gladiator kilt, black underwear, and a black leather harness with chrome rings. His outfit ostensibly passed muster with the Pride personnel manning the admission gates, as Pride personnel ushered him into the event. His underwear and kilt completely covered his genitals, pubic hair, buttocks, perineum, anus or anal region as required by San Diego Municipal Code Section S6.S3(c). Mr. Walters had invested a significant sum of money in his leather gear and took special care to insure that he was compliant with the rules for the event," the complaint states.
Walters says that even though he was admitted into the festival, Lt. Nieslit told him that his leather gear was "borderline." While he was lining up for a drink, Walters claims, other officers approached him and forcibly escorted him outside. He claims Pride security knocked his camera phone out of his hand as he tried to record the incident.
After refusing to sign a citation, Walters was handcuffed, arrested and driven to jail, according to the complaint.
"At the jail Mr. Walters was placed in a single cell visible to all inmates being checked in. San Diego County sheriffs deputies encouraged the incoming inmates to ridicule Mr. Walters, who was wearing only his kilt and underwear, and the deputies joined in the verbal harassment. In going from the hot environment of an overheated car to the air conditioned jail, Mr. Walters was chilled. The deputies refused Mr. Walters any additional clothing or a blanket. However, upon his release from jail, Mr. Walters was ordered to change into clothing provided by the jail. Mr. Walters was released from the jail at approximately 2:15 am, Sunday, July 17, 2011, after posting $190 bond. He had been given nothing to eat or drink since his arrest, some twelve hours prior," according to the complaint.
Walters says that the city's policy, implemented by a police task force, violates his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
"The City of San Diego's failure to curtail this selective enforcement and its subsequent ratification of Mr. Walters' arrest, only serves to guarantee that this custom and policy will continue unabated. It is the enforcement of this disparate and unequal policy that resulted in the unlawful arrest and incarceration of Mr. Walters," the complaint states.
Walters is represented by Christopher Morris with Aguirre, Morris & Silverson.
He seeks an injunction and compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the Fourteenth and Fourth Amendments, false arrest, battery, negligence and violation of his civil rights under California's Civil Code.
The San Diego Police Department said it could not comment on ongoing litigation. Courthouse News sent San Diego Pride a copy of the 16-page complaint, but it did not immediately respond.