Did you know cross-dressing is outlawed in National City?
There’s an old law in National City, buried in its municipal code, that prohibits anyone from “impersonating members of the opposite sex.”
The city passed Section 10.32 in 1966 and made it illegal to be “in apparel, and/or make-up customarily worn by a member of the opposite sex,” while also buying alcoholic beverages, entering a restroom for members of the opposite sex, or practicing “any form of deception on another person.”
The law is unconstitutional and invalid under state law, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, so National City hasn’t enforced it in decades. But it is still on the books.
Coyote Moon, an activist and member of the LGBTQ community, recently found the law by accident.
“I was shocked,” Moon said. “It’s 2020. How is this still in the books?”
Moon was actually looking for the city’s sign ordinance because she’d seen City Council campaign signs on public property and wanted to “pull a Karen and have them taken down.”
But when she discovered 10.32, Moon reached out to Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis and Councilwoman Mona Rios. The two elected officials placed a repeal ordinance on this week’s agenda and the City Council unanimously voted to repeal the law.
The vote simply introduced the repeal ordinance. The council will vote to actually implement the ordinance on Oct. 20 and the repeal will go into effect after a mandatory 30-day waiting period.
Before the vote, most of the conversation revolved around the procedural nature of the repeal. City Atty. Angil Morris-Jones said it was “just a housekeeping measure,” after noting that the law hadn’t been enforced in years because state laws that supersede local laws made it obsolete.
“It should be noted that it is not unusual for a city that is over 130 years old to find out that they have sections in their Municipal Code that have become invalid,” Morris-Jones wrote in her staff report.
Still, members of the public recognized the significance of the repeal.
“The transgender community has been fully a part of the San Diego region for decades,” resident Mary Ann Horton said. “We are regular people living our lives just like anyone else. Making it a crime to buy a drink or use a public restroom is so 1966.”
Even though the law hasn’t been enforced, the fact that it’s still in the books sends the wrong message to members of the gay community, Moon said.
“They said the law was obsolete, they never enforced it, but the point is that the fact that it’s still there is a slap in the face to the LGBT community,” she said.
Moon said National City doesn’t have a large gay community and the city hasn’t flown the pride flag at City Hall, so laws like these speak volumes even if they aren’t being enforced.
Sotelo-Solis said it is important for the city to send a message of inclusivity, especially “right now at this uncertain time when so much negative rhetoric is out there.”
Solis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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