CITY LEADERS FEAR an ordinance that would prohibit residents from wearing sagging pants will open the Gary to lawsuits.
Gary officials cautious of legal problems of banning the controversial fashion style
The city’s proposal to prohibit residents from wearing their pants below the waistline is up for redesign.
On December 17, the council will once again discuss the proposed ordinance in an attempt to polish the city’s image while respecting the constitutional rights of its residents.
The hearing will be one of several that will take place over the next several months as Gary officials seek to make alterations to the proposed ordinance that is scheduled to go into effect by December, 2016.
At its weekly Common Council meeting on December 2, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and council Vice President Ronald Brewer said that it would take longer to create a new law.
According to the mayor, city officials are examining whether the new law will be challenged in court. She said there may be constitutional claims to the law that would ban sagging pants. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said they would support any lawsuit that challenges a sagging pants ordinance.
There were also concerns by council members who were reluctant to using law enforcement to penalize people who wear their pants low. Freeman-Wilson said the city didn’t “want to criminalize that.”
Gary is among several cities across the country that seeks to promote a wholesome, clean image of their communities. Chicago tried to pass a similar ordinance in 2013, but failed after public outcry.
The proposed ordinance would affect mostly young people who have adopted the sagging pants style from the hip hop culture that has swept the nation in the past 10 years. In Gary, the style has increasingly become more daring as some youth wear their pants as low as their knees, leaving most of their underpants exposed.
To help address the problem the issue has gone before the city’s new Youth Council. The council’s president, Dai’one Fields said the representatives have decided that the ordinance would apply only to people under 18. She said in news reports that all cases would be dealt with in a soon-to-be created Teen Court.
Fields said the Youth Council wants to meet with the gas stations owners in Gary, many of whom post signs in their businesses requiring people to wear pants and shoes while on their premises.
Brewer, is an adviser for the Youth Council. He said members will discuss the issue when they participate in a convention of youth cou-ncils from across the United States Dec. 9 and 10 in Milwaukee.
Brewer said during that convention, young people will be able to exchange ideas with other teenagers in other municipalities that have tried imposing bans on sagging pants in public.