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Pen ises Legal Again in Toronto!
TNT!MEN wins important court victory
News analysis north of the border by JIM W.
In a legal decision handed down just before noon today, Wednesday 26 June, Ontario Provincial Court Judge Robert Bigelow, in Toronto, ruled that mere nudity does not constitute disorderly conduct and does not violate local liquor licensing laws. The ruling clears the way for TNT!MEN to resume complete nudity at their dances, including their popular, once-a-month afternoon nude tea dance at The Barn. And although it does not directly bear on the issue of nudity in public -- such as TNT!MEN's extraordinarily successful nude contingent in the Toronto Gay Pride parade each year -- it does make it much more difficult for a group of out-of-control local police to make good on their threat to arrest nude marchers.
Although the court proceeding was at some level quite serious, it did have a humorous moment when the judge asked Barn owner Janko Naglic if he pleaded guilty or not guilty. A bit unsure of his English, and presumably thinking of the fact that he was not going to deny that patrons were nude, Janko at first replied "Guilty". But his legal counsel, the efficient Andrew Czernik, immediately caught his eye and shook his head. "Not Guilty," Janko then replied, and the courtroom observers breathed a deep sigh of relief.
Back-Room Power Grab?
The Barn had been cited by renegade police officers from Toronto's notorious 52 Division in what insiders describe as a "back-room power grab." The local liquor licensing board had long ago stopped caring about what bar patrons wore while they consumed their alcohol, and several decisions of the board had led to the conclusion that nude bar events were completely legal. Conservative forces, however, decided to try an end run around this logical and sane policy, and recruited local police officers in an attempt to usurp the licensing board's authority in these matters. If they got away with it, the police would for all practical intents and purposes have replaced the licensing board and been able to control nudity in bars -- and eventually, presumably, most other aspects of bar regulations and behavior.
That's how back-room politics work: You pretend that you're just enforcing the law, ma'am, and if the local courts and politicians believe you, then... bingo! Your bureaucracy has just successfully extended its tentacles into an additional realm, and you have acquired more power. Your backers reward you for your chutzpah, your enemies get a little more fearful and self-censoring, and your budget goes up. What more could a bureaucrat want?
What ordinary citizens want, of course, is the ability to conduct their social affairs without interference from bluenosed social censors. As long as the nudity does not in fact cause disorder -- no knife fights, undue noise, prostitution, or other illegal behavior -- then the cops should keep their hands off.
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