- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

DADEVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Leaders of an Alabama city fed up with sagging pants on young men and hemlines on women’s skirts creeping higher are mulling penalties for clothing they consider inappropriate.

Dadeville City Councilman Frank Goodman suggested that the city of roughly 3,200 begin penalizing people for wearing pants or shorts that expose their undergarments. The lone female councilmember, Stephanie Kelley, has said city leaders have no business telling residents what they can’t wear, but suggested adding short skirts and shorts in the name of gender equality.

“You can’t impose something on part of the citizens and not the rest,” Kelley said. “The first thing I think the people would say is ‘Ok, the men passed this because it’s ok for the women to do whatever.”

Goodman, 66, has said he isn’t on board with Kelley’s idea.

“I’ve been seeing skirts get shorter and shorter as I’ve come through life and I’ve never heard anything about it,” Goodman said.

“Sagging pants don’t look any worse than the cheeks and the cleavage. I just hope people have enough respect for themselves to do what’s right,” Kelley said.

Goodman and Kelley agree that sagging pants and short skirts could have negative impacts on the city’s youth and their appearance could prevent them from being considered for job opportunities. Regardless of whether the idea targets skirts, shorts or both, Sharon Tidwell, 66, said Dadeville residents should have the right to dress as they please.

“I wouldn’t want somebody telling me what to wear,” Tidwell said, adding that she considers the trends inappropriate but something people typically grow out of. “I think they just want attention.”

Dakota Hauck, 23, agreed with Tidwell and added that he thinks the idea is impractical.

“That’s like taking away your rights,” he said, “What if I had a day when I left my belt at home?”

The idea and its potential penalties have not yet been presented to the full council, Goodman said, and the city attorney has been researching it since it was brought up. Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday.

In June, city leaders in Talladega, Alabama, discussed a similar clothing ordinance but said they’d need to do research and hold public hearings before moving forward. City Clerk Beth Cheeks said in an email that officials are reviewing the idea and it’s unclear if or when it will be brought up again.

Executive Director of the Alabama ACLU Susan Watson said Dadeville city leaders and any others considering a similar ordinance could be inviting litigation.

“So what are they, the fashion police?” Watson asked. “This is big government at its best.”

The city of Opa-Locka, Florida, passed an ordinance banning sagging pants in 2007. City council in Ocala, Florida, roughly 300 miles north of Opa-Locka, passed a similar measure in 2014 that called for penalties of up to $500 and 60 days in jail. It was overturned soon afterward.

“The public did not receive it well and felt like it was a really an invasion of privacy and an imposition of your civil rights to dress as you like and we received a lot of public backlash on this,” said city spokeswoman Jeannine Robbins. “Some people said it was racist and it would cause racial profiling,” she added.

Mary Rich, the city’s lone African-American representative, spearheaded the proposal and was the only dissenting vote when it was overturned, Robbins said. Both Goodman and Kelley are also black and all three have said their proposals are based on the need to show respect in public.

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