BATON ROUGE, La.-Amid warnings it would make Louisiana (search) a laughingstock, the House refused Tuesday to make it illegal for people to wear low-riding pants (search) that expose underwear or more, rejecting a bill that's generated jokes among lawmakers and around the country.
Rep. Derrick Shepherd (search), D-Marrero, brushed aside the catcalls and laughs from lawmakers on the House floor, saying sagging pants that sit nearly at men's knees were a serious problem of young men copying the fashion of prisoners.
"I dare say to you we should have higher and loftier voted 54-39 against Shepherd's bill, likely killing it for the legislative session, with questions about how to enforce the measure and suggestions that it would set up a literal "fashion police."
Lawmakers questioned how police would determine what was deemed the proper dress and what breaks the law. Rep. Jack Smith, D-Stephensville, said police would have to get new training "to now determine what fashion is legal and what fashion is illegal."
Rep. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, said the measure was well-intentioned but unenforceable. He said the bill would only hurt the Legislature if it was passed, making Louisiana "the laughingstock of the country."
"At the end of the day, there's only so much that we as a Legislature can do to deal with people's conduct. This is an issue that ought to be addressed by parents primarily, by the preachers, by the coaches," Martiny said.
Shepherd said the Legislature has the right to determine what was decent. He compared his proposal to curfew laws, truancy laws and a ban on gay marriage and called his bill "tough love" for young people.
"I've heard arguments before that it's unenforceable, that it's unconstitutional. Those same arguments were used when we enacted seat belt laws," he said.
The Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has said the measure could lead to selective enforcement and harassment from police and would violate a person's fundamental right to public expression.
Shepherd's bill would make it a crime to wear clothing in public that "intentionally exposes undergarments or intentionally exposes any portion of the pubic hair, cleft of the buttocks or genitals."
Violators of the proposed law would have to perform three eight-hour days of community service and could have to pay a fine up to $175.
The proposed law wouldn't apply to clothes worn in a private residence, swimsuits, fashion shows or "clothing worn by a person in the practice of their legal profession or trade," like strippers.
Jul 11, '04
It shouldn't take a government bill, anyway, for people to have the common sense to keep their underwear in their pants.