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Ashland council moves decision on nudity until start of new year

The issue of public nudity is going to hound the Ashland City Council into 2010.

At its Tuesday meeting, the council couldn't agree on whether to expand the city's existing ban, which bars the display of genitals downtown and in parks.

Some council members favored creating no-nudity buffer zones around schools, while others favored a city-wide ban on nudity in public places.

The council voted to continue the issue to its meeting set for Jan. 5, 2010.

A majority of the council did favor moving away from a proposed far-reaching ban that would have included city residents' private yards. Instead, they voted in support of having the ban — if it's ever extended — apply only to outdoor public areas.

Council members ran up against the mandatory meeting stop time of 10:30 p.m. before they could vote on whether they actually wanted to extend the ban.

In public testimony, Deltra Ferguson of the Southern Oregon University Women's Resource Center read a letter from Diane Potratz of the campus health and wellness center.

Portratz, a licensed clinical social worker, said children who have experienced sexual abuse can have post- traumatic stress disorder.

If they involuntarily see naked people, the exposure can trigger PTSD symptoms of intrusive memories and a sense of reliving the sexual abuse.

Councilwoman Carol Voisin said most children are not abused by strangers. Rather, they are abused by people they know. She said a nudity ban does not protect children.

"Where's the protection from clothed predators if we're protecting children?" she asked.

Voisin challenged local newspapers to focus on more important issues, such as the problem of homeless children, rather than on the issue of Ashland's nudity ban.

Fox News has broadcast a report criticizing Ashlanders for spending years on the issue of public nudity. While the current council has devoted four meetings to the topic after two nude men appeared separately near Ashland schools this year, Ashland first adopted its partial ban on nudity several years ago.

Ralph Temple, a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, said a nudity ban could be vulnerable to legal challenges because it restricts free expression.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.