Score one for the cover-up crowd.

A federal judge today ruled against the organizer of next week’s naked bike ride, saying she can’t use freedom of speech as a rationale to put the San Diego’s anti-nudity law on hold.

Gina Coburn, a spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office, said Judge Larry Burns declared that the city has, in her words, “a substantial interest and right to regulate public nudity.”

College student Sarah Bush sued the city on Thursday, arguing that she and others have a constitutional right to express themselves by riding nude through the streets of San Diego during June 12’s World Naked Bike Ride. The lawsuit demanded that a judge order the city to not enforce its anti-nudity ordinance.

World Naked Bike Ride events are held annually in the United States and around the world as a protest against dependency on oil and a celebration of bicycling.

As we reported earlier this week, several other cities — including San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia and Chicago — have allowed dozens or even hundreds of nude and nearly nude bicyclists to ride down city streets during the events without interference.

San Diego city officials, however, have pledged to enforce the law during the 10-mile bike ride, which will take bicyclists through Hillcrest and downtown San Diego.

The lawsuit, Bush vs. city of San Diego, argued that previous federal cases involving the Nazi protesters, abortion protesters and strippers all support the right to nudity as a form of free speech. It wasn’t immediately clear if Bush will appeal to a higher federal court.

At least one other judge has tackled the identical issue — nudity during a World Naked Bike Ride event — but ruled the other way. In 2008, an Oregon judge dismissed indecent exposure charges against a man who took part in the ride that year.

A prosecutor called it a case of “streaking,” but the judge ruled that it was a “symbolic protest.”

That case may have little if any bearing here, since Oregon law allows nudity as a political protest.


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