Georgia Town Enters Fight Against Sagging Pants

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One of the continuing stupid issues I monitor here is the War on Sagging that still rages across this land.

It seems like only yesterday, but was in fact two years ago, that a Florida judge struck down an anti-low-pants ordinance after finding it was unconstitutional as applied.  See "Americans Still Struggling With Pants," Lowering the Bar (Sept. 18, 2008). Another ruling along those lines was handed down more recently, but as this new story shows, the war rages on, undeterred by civil rights or common sense.

It looks like my last report on this was back in April, when a New York state senator entered the fray. As I wrote then:

Frequent readers of Lowering the Bar will know this is by no means a new struggle …. Battles in America's War on Sagging Pants have been fought to date in communities like Pine Lawn, MissouriRiviera Beach, FloridaNew Orleans, LouisianaLynwood, IllinoisMemphis, Tennessee; and perhaps most dramatically, Flint, Michigan, where then-Chief-of-Police David Dicks bravely crusaded against droopy pants at a time when Flint had the third-highest homicide rate in the nation.

I can also add New York, Virginia, and Georgia to that list, which means at least a dozen state and local legislatures in at least nine different states have spent time struggling with this issue.

According to the Smoking Gun, the latest shot was fired in Dublin, Georgia, on September 7, when Mayor Phil Best signed a bill amending the existing public-indecency law so that it applies to anyone who "[a]ppears wearing pants or skirts more than three inches below the top of the hips (crest of the ilium) exposing the skin or undergarments."  There are some new features here:

  • To my knowledge, this is the first indication that there is also a problem with sagging skirts, as previous reports have all been confined to pants. Good work, ladies.
  • The ordinance helpfully provides that it is a defense to the charge "if it is determined, after a hearing or trial, that the person was exercising rights protected by the Federal or State Constitution." Just so you know the Constitution applies in Dublin, Georgia, too.
  • Most remarkably, a new justification is asserted: according to the Dublin City Council, "there is evidence that indicates that wearing sagging pants is injurious to the health of the wearer as it causes an improper gait."

Emphasis added. This is the first time to my knowledge that concerns about "the health of the wearer" have been cited as justification for a low-pants law. Neither the ordinance nor the report cited the study on which the council suggested it was relying, although I'm sure the science is totally solid on this one.

Finally, the reference to the "crest of the ilium" is a nice try, but I'm not sure that's going to be detailed enough to pass muster. For a much better example of a valiant attempt to define what is prohibited, I refer you again to the 269-word definition of "buttocks" in the city code of McHenry, Illinois. Now that's a city council taking its job seriously.