SAN DIEGO (CN) - San Diego must face a civil-rights lawsuit from a man who claims police selectively enforced the city's nudity policy at a gay-pride event, the Ninth Circuit ruled.
Police ejected Will X. Walters from the San Diego Gay Pride event after party in 2011 after Lt. David Nieslit told Walters his outfit was "borderline."
Walters was wearing a leather gladiator kilt with a harness and a black thong. When he refused to sign a citation for violating the city's nudity ordinance, he was jailed.
Walters filed a federal lawsuit against Nieslit, the City of San Diego and individual officer defendants.
He argued that his body was sufficiently covered and that police would not issue a similar citation at a beach volleyball tournament.
The city countered that Walters was jailed because he did not comply with police.
Deputy City Attorney Bonny Hsu mentioned a situation at Comic-Con involving Adrianne Curry, an "America's Next Top Model" winner, who had to tie a t-shirt around her waist to cover her "Aeon Flux" character costume after being ejected from the event.
The trial court ruled in the city's favor in 2014, but the Ninth Circuit partially reversed the decision on Tuesday, allowing Walters to continue his lawsuit.
"Walters presented evidence that Lieutenant Nieslit, the Lieutenant in charge of SDPD's Special Events unit, attended a planning meeting of Pride Event volunteers and announced a new, more restrictive nudity policy for the Pride Event, which required that attendees fully cover their buttocks," the court's three-judge panel wrote in an unpublished opinion.
The judges also stated that Walters made enough of a case for discrimination to overcome the lower court's dismissal.
"As for discriminatory purpose, Walters is entitled at the summary judgment stage to an inference that targeting Pride Event attendees is tantamount to targeting gay individuals and individuals who support gay rights," the judges wrote. "That an officer referred to Walters as a 'drama queen' during his arrest is additional evidence of discriminatory purpose."
The Ninth Circuit also reversed the trial court's dismissal of Walters' claims of negligence, equal protection and violation of the California's Bane Act, which prohibits "threats, intimidation or coercion" to interfere with civil rights.
However, the San Francisco-based appeals court upheld the lower court' s ruling in San Diego's favor on Walters' claim of false arrest.
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