A federal appeals court has agreed to issue a last-minute decision about whether protesters have a right to bike naked through the streets of San Diego on Saturday, an attorney said today.

The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court will consider whether to overturn a federal judge who ruled that public nudity will remain illegal here, said Mitch Wallis, who represents an organizer of the World Naked Bike Ride.

The court has agreed to rule by Friday, the day before the ride is scheduled to begin in Hillcrest, Wallis said. Dozens of bicyclists plan to ride on a 10-mile route to protest the country’s dependence on oil and promote bicycling.

While this is San Diego’s first World Naked Bike event, dozens of others have been held over the past several years in cities across the United States and around the world.

Police in several U.S. cities — including San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Philadelphia — have allowed participants to ride nude without interference. But San Diego officials told the organizers that police would crack down on any nude bikers.

Last Friday, Judge Larry Burns agreed with the city’s position that nudity is not a form of free speech and not protected by the First Amendment. The bikers believe otherwise.

Wallis, the attorney, said he appealed to the Ninth Circuit court, which is the final rung before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“If they decide in our favor, then whoever wants to ride naked can,” Wallis said. “If they can’t, everybody has to wear G-strings and pasties and all that.”

While the Ninth Circuit is known as being liberal, University of San Diego law professor Shaun Martin said its reputation for leaning to the left is exaggerated. As it stands, he said, the bikers are certain to lose.

“It would take a judge doing 20 cartwheels and being super-motivated for the naked bikers to win,” he said. “The only result would be that the Supreme Court would immediately reverse.”

The argument in favor of the right to nudity in public just isn’t strong enough, he said. The First Amendment protects speech but not conduct, he said, and “getting naked is conduct.”


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