SALEM, Ore. — For John Kinlin, fashion means freedom.
“How you choose to dress is just that,” said Kinlin. “It’s a freedom of expression.”
But for Kinlin and hundreds of others in rural Springfield, that expression takes form without any clothing.
“We all have that freedom to be ourselves and to wear, or not wear, what we want,” said Kinlin.
About 400 nudists vacation at The Willamettans family nudist resort 18 miles northeast of Springfield, and many of them are actively opposing new legislation that they argue could strip them of their right to be in the buff.
“We have the right to be nude in appropriate places, and we would like places to be set aside for that,” said Kinlin.
Oregon lawmakers are considering asking voters to roll back the state's free speech protections to allow regulation of strip clubs.
But in public testimony Monday, Kinlin and several others who oppose the legislation testified that a move to regulate strip clubs could also govern businesses like Willamettans that provide nude entertainment.
“During the hearing they made it very clear they were not targeting nudist establishments,” said Kinlin. “I understand that we have to look at this issue, I’m just uncomfortable with the way that they’re doing it. [Legislators] are doing it via a Constitutional amendment that doesn’t mention strip club or adult businesses.”
Kinlin testified the proposal's language might allow the state to shut nudist clubs because they offer live entertainment and services in the nude.
American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) member Michael Parker testified against Senate Joint Resolution 28 and said it could potentially criminalize inoffensive nudity.
“This bill is a major step backwards,” said Parker. “There are numerous AANR members and non-members in Oregon that skinny dip at the two legal nude beaches in the state or use remote public hot springs. This bill could change all that.”
The sponsors of the legislation did not return KVAL’s calls Thursday.
According to The Associated Press, sponsors of the measure say it isn't intended to go after nudists. They say communities should have the same power as in other states to keep strip clubs away from homes.
Oregon has interpreted the state’s free speech provisions as a protection to nude entertainment. The state goes further than the U.S. Constitution regarding free speech.
The legislation has been heard in the state Senate. It will now move to the state House for a hearing.