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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council says anti-public nudity initiative backers must gather signatures

The brewing debate about how much must be worn by baristas could be decided by voters.

Three Spokane moms say they will gather signatures in hopes of asking voters to make it a misdemeanor to expose at least half of a female breast, any part of a female areola or nipple, or any part of male or female genitals or anus at any place the public has a right to be or see.

“I feel like what I expose my children to should never be out of my control,” said Kimberly Curry, who has three children ages 3, 5 and 7. Curry and two of her friends, Hillary Van Akin and Beth Solscheid, have spearheaded the initiative. They say they have never worked on a political campaign before but are committed to gathering enough signatures.

The Spokane City Council voted 5-2 Monday to reject their request to place the initiative on the ballot without making them collect signatures. They’ll need 2,477 signatures of registered city voters to qualify for the November 2015 ballot or 7,431 for an earlier vote.

The initiative has an unlikely ally in Sarah Birnel, the owner of Devil’s Brew, the local espresso stand chain that sparked calls last summer for rules forcing baristas to cover up as a result of a “topless Tuesday” promotion. That’s when baristas wore only G-strings and pasties. Birnel recently changed the name of the business from XXXtreme Espresso.

Birnel told the council that voters should set nudity standards.

“As an American, this is what we should stand for,” Birnel said.

Initiative backers stressed that they respect Birnel.

“We don’t want to shut them down,” Van Akin said. “We don’t feel that a few inches of fabric would affect their business.”

Councilman Mike Fagan first proposed nudity restrictions similar to what are proposed in the initiative, but they were rejected in a 2-4 vote in October. The Spokane Valley City Council approved nudity rules in November that the initiative is based on.

The initiative would create the misdemeanor crime of “unlawful public exposure.” Exempt from the rules would be nursing mothers, children under 10, and people at art and medical classes, medical offices and “bathrooms, saunas and changing rooms associated with licensed businesses.”

Fagan and Council President Ben Stuckart voted to place the initiative before voters without making supporters gather signatures. Stuckart noted that when he opposed the rules in October, he stated that it was a matter that would be better decided by voters. But the majority said supporters should gather signatures like all other recent initiatives in Spokane.