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Sagging Pants: Freedom of Expression or Scourge of a Community?

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By Kevin Fayle on April 13, 2009 4:00 PM

Does a style choice deserve constitutional protection?  Or can a city legislatively ban certain kinds of clothing the same way they could regulate the height of a hedge in front of a house?

That's the question that a county court in Florida must decide in a suit challenging a Florida city's ban on trousers worn so low that skin or underwear is exposed, the New York Times reports.

The ban passed with the approval of more than 70 percent of the voters in Riviera Beach.  Other cities and towns have similar bans in place, but Riviera Beach takes their ban more seriously than most.  The town has already charged at least 15 men with violating the ordinance, and the public defenders office argues that enforcement has focused primarily on young black men.

The mayor of the town says that he's just trying to class-up the place a bit, but the plaintiffs have countered that saggy pants are a constitutionally-protected form of expression of identity. 

The general counsel for the Riviera Beach police department said after a hearing in the case that the issue was one of prime importance for the city.

Really?  Saggy pants?  That's the important issue in Riviera Beach, FL? 

Must be nice.  Some cities have real problems.

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