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Downtown

 Posted: 2:00 AM July 23, 2004

Naked Summer: Weighty issues wrapped around a hearty — guffaw —

Andrew Scot Bolsinger —

Reading the newspaper recently, I can't help but chuckle. — How can you not read, "... the two hour al fresco, au naturale picnic — and Frisbee fest was greeted by astounded motorists on East Main Street — ..." and not laugh out loud?

Perhaps the council's passage of a nudity ordinance went — relatively unnoticed, but the ensuing protests, including streaking at — the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the aforementioned naked picnic before — Tuesday's council meeting, are effectively gaining attention while drawing — more laughs than Bill Cosby.

"It's hard to keep straight face on the whole thing," — says Paul Copeland, co-chair of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American — Civil Liberties Union.

But, oh what a tangled web we weave. Behind the laughter — is a fascinating cauldron of bubbling stew of issues that to some are — no laughing matter.

It's all about ...?

"What's the issue?" Copeland asks me as I ask him the — same thing. "Some people would have different ideas on what the real issue — is."

To borrow from the 1970s, that's the $64,000 question.

Of course, the protesters argue their civil rights are — being unfairly impinged by an unnecessary law. "This goes straight back — to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," naked protester Matt Dusek — told a reporter Tuesday night.

But Copeland points out that those opposing the nude displays — argue that they are "unwilling viewers," and that their civil right not — to be exposed to the ... err ... exposed is being violated.

Still others argue from what Copeland calls "a sort of — a Libertarian view," that we simply have too many dang laws and these — types of problems aren't solved by passing more laws.

At least for now, that certainly seems to be case here — in naked Ashland.

During a recent meeting with city councilor John Morrison, — he told me that the desire to pass a nudity ordinance would only stoke — more incidents of nudity. He later cast the only vote against the ban. —

Tuesday night Morrison continued that theme, saying the — nudist displays were "entirely predictable" since there was no compelling — need for the ordinance.

If that's not enough of a quagmire, Copeland raises yet — another point of view.

"What I personally object to is the loss of legitimate — demonstration," Copeland says, recalling a demonstration of naked people — walking from Evo's to downtown to protest the start of the Afghanistan — war.

"That was one where it was kind of cool," Copeland says. — Under the new ordinance police would have the legal ground to arrest the — protesters. "We've lost something in process," Copeland says.

A big mess

The real irony here is that the ordinance itself was one — of the most tepid, unobtrusive laws that could be written on the subject. — In the simplest terms, under the new law, anyone, male or female, can — legally walk around anywhere in Ashland wearing nothing but a thong and — can be completely naked anywhere outside of city parks and the downtown. — Hardly the stuff of puritanical prohibition.

But the law did suffice to organize the opposition, motivate — them to drop their drawers, paint their buttocks, and protest with renewed — vigor, such that it may be working.

Morrison has said he may urge other councilors to revisit — the vote. City Councilor Cate Hartzell suggested Tuesday that the council — and the protesters may need to talk about the problem together.

Copeland says a possible compromise may be the final result. — For instance, "there could be some areas in the park where nudity is acceptable," — he says.

Whatever the issues are, and whatever the final outcome — may be, the nudity law has lit the match on Ashland's Naked Summer. It — is already a summer to remember, and for sure, we will look back on it — in the years to come and, simply, laugh.


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