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Judge rejects civil rights suit by man arrested in nudity case

SAN DIEGO -- A federal judge has rejected a civil rights lawsuit filed by a man arrested on suspicion of violating the city's anti-nudity ordinance for wearing a "gladiator-type black leather loincloth" at an LGBT Pride activity.

William X. Walters argued that he was targeted because he is gay while police allow women to wear even more revealing thongs at local beaches and at the annual Over-the-Line tournament at Fiesta Island.

Though evidence showed that Walters may be the only person ever arrested for violating the ordinance without being entirely naked, that does not prove that he was targeted because he is gay, the judge ruled.

"There is nothing in the record that reasonably suggests sexual orientation had anything to do with the [police] decision to insist upon compliance with the literal text" of the ordinance, U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo ruled in a 15-page decision this week.

The arresting officer had given Walters a chance to avoid being arrested by covering up but he refused, according to court documents.

Walters responded to the officer by saying, "So either cite me, arrest me, or leave me alone because I'm not interested in your opinion," according to the documents.

The city attorney's office, representing the city and the police officer, stressed that before the 2011 LGBT Pride festival, organizers had asked the police for assistance in discouraging nudity.

From a standing position, Walters genitals and buttocks were covered by his loincloth, the judge ruled.

But when he moved "the flaps of Walters' loincloth moved freely ... and as the wind blew that day, exposing his buttocks," Bencivengo ruled.

Thom Senzee, a journalist covering LGBT issues and acting as Walters' spokesman, said the decision is significant as a civil rights issue.

The experience, Senzee said, has caused Walters, 31, to become a full-time civil rights activist. Though Walters was arrested and taken to jail, no charge was filed in the case.

Chris Morris, an attorney for Walters, said the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will have to “decide if it’s OK for the police to allow women to wear g-strings at [Over-the-Line] while preventing gay men from wearing a gladiator kilt during Pride.”

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