The American Association for Nude Recreation - Western Region
Legal and Informational PDFs to Download Beach-Goers! Know Your Rights if You Get a Ticket for Nudity AANR - Western Region State & Local Nudity Laws (updated January 2017) Lee Baca Letter Barnes v Glen Theatre, 1991 California v Bost, 1988 Eckl v Davis People v Kus NAC v California State Parks NAC v CA State Parks Appeal Ruling, 2010 NY v Santorelli The Don Barry Pryor Case, 1979 San Francisco Nudity Ordinance, 2012 The Chad Merrill Smith Case, 1972Nudity is against the law in many public places in America. Moreover, it is also generally illegal on a person’s property if the nude person is visible to the public, such as through an open window or sunbathing nude in someone's yard. While most state laws are clear about nudity around children and nudity meant to arouse, some other wording is vague, and violations often are a matter of community standards for indecency. Of course, in some situations these laws may conflict with constitutional protections for freedom of expression, particularly if the nudity is part of an artistic performance or political demonstration.
Local laws will take precedence when the question of nudity relates to federal lands, such as federal parks, beaches, and other facilities. New York, Hawaii, Maine, Ohio, and Texas are unique in that they each have laws expressly allowing women to go topless in any location where men can do so legally.
To the best of our knowledge and research, here are many of the nudity laws affecting the cities, counties and states in our region: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah, plus Mexico and the Philippine Islands. Use this as a guide as these laws are subject to change.
It may come as a surprise to some nudists, but “nudity” per se on federal land or anywhere else is not a “right” under the constitution. Sometimes it is allowed under certain circumstances or locations, and sometimes it isn’t.
There have been many court cases on this subject, including United States v. O'Brien 1968, Erie v. Paps 2000, South Florida Free Beaches vs. City of Miami 1982 and Barnes v. Glen Theater 1991, to name a few. Most of these cases have made the ability to be a social nudist more restrictive and have allowed local cities and counties to ban it outright as it does not fall under First Amendment protection.
In the June 1991 Barnes v. Glen Theatre case, for example, a plurality of the Supreme Court ruled that states have the right to ban public nudity and doing so does not violate the freedom of expression. Justice Anton Scalia reasoned "that moral opposition to nudity supplies a rational basis for its prohibition."
The Golden Rule seems to be whoever is in charge makes the rules, so check out your destination with the locals before assuming anything.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the Department of the Interior which manages diverse resources on public land across the nation, especially in the west. For example, in California the agency oversees 15.2 million acres–about 15% of the Golden State’s total land mass. In Nevada, BLM manages 48 million acres (63% of the state), and in Colorado, that number increases to 8.3 million acres.
BLM tries to balance the various demands of various groups interested in using these lands for recreation, energy development, conservation, habitats for wild horses and burros, Native American cultural protection, and livestock grazing.
The National Park Service (NPS) is also a bureau of the Department of the Interior. In 2016, the agency celebrated its centennial. In the United States at present, there are 59 national parks, and 117 national monuments. The NPS manages 78 of the monuments, and the rest are co-managed by the BLM or by another regional or state agency.
Each of the parks has a superintendent in charge, who also may manage an adjoining monument or a national forest area in cooperation with the Forestry Service. It is important for naturists to know who manages what in any given area because sometimes you will receive contradictory advice depending on to whom you are speaking. In general, if there is a park superintendent he has the final word. Superintendents do get moved around, so just because you had permission to skinny dip in a certain lake before doesn’t mean a new superintendent will agree to the same.
A good example is what happened at Saline Valley a few years ago when the "Clothing Optional" sign was removed from the Hot Springs area when a new Park Superintendent was appointed. Nudity is still allowed there, but he did not want visitors to think it was officially approved.
This agency is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They also manage public lands, but focus on preserving the forests and habitats for both the animals living there and the birds whose migration paths cross above. The Forest Service also manages timber interests on public land and fights invasive forest pests. Its main focus is to oversee wildfire prevention.
Naturists encounter BLM and Forest Service rangers all the time on hiking trails and at remote hot springs. Some are friendly and seek to prevent user conflict by making sure we are respectful of those who do not wish to see our nudity, while others will call the local police to issue a citation. It varies from state to state, forest to forest, and trail to trail.
In 2006, a nude hiker encountered a Forest Service ranger in the Angeles National Forest above Los Angeles. He called the County Sheriff’s office, who arrested the man. With the help of a Naturist Action Committee lawyer, the County Sheriff Lee Baca determined that since there was no law prohibiting nudity in the national forest, the man was free to go. To this day, all nude hikers in that forest area carry a copy of Baca’s letter in case another forest ranger or sheriff’s deputy didn’t get the memo.
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The American Association for Nude Recreation
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