POSTED: Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 12:15pm
UPDATED: Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 2:36pm
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WDSU-CNN) — The New Orleans chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has posted an open letter to Terrebonne Parish officials urging them to reconsider a proposed "saggy pants" ordinance, which the group believes could lead to racial profiling and rights violations.
The letter addresses a proposal introduced last month. If passed, it would punish those whose pants droop lower than the waist, exposing skin or undergarments.
Councilman John Navy said the proposal stems from complaints from residents who want the parish to take the action.
Neighboring Lafourche Parish already has an ordinance that makes it illegal for anyone to reveal underwear or to dress in a way that is deemed "unbecoming of his or her sex." According to Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office records, 45 people have been ticketed in the law's 5-year existence.
Similar rules have been put in place in Shreveport and in several Mississippi towns.
In the letter, ACLU executive director Marjorie Esman writes, "clothing is a form of expression protected under the Constitution of the United States. To ban a particular clothing style would violate a liberty interest guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution."
The document goes on to note: Such an ordinance would inevitably raise questions about racial profiling or disproportionate enforcement. “Saggy pants” is a clothing style typically associated with young African-American males. If enforced against those who choose this style and not against enforced against everyone whose pants may inadvertently sag, it will almost certainly be enforced disproportionately against a particular group of people who will be singled out by law enforcement for nothing other than their attire.
The Terrebonne Council is accepting public comment and plans to vote on the ordinance on April 10.