DELCAMBRE, La. – Overly saggy britches are obscene, the Delcambre Town Council says. So does Mayor Carol Broussard, who said he will sign an anti-sag ordinance passed unanimously this week.
The new indecent exposure ordinance in this Cajun-country town of about 2,000 carries penalties of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for being caught in pants that show undergarments or, in the mayor's phrase, "private parts."
"I don't know if it will do any good, but it won't hurt," said Delcambre Councilman Albert Roy, who introduced the ordinance. "It's obvious, and anybody with common sense can see your parts when you wear sagging pants."
The meeting Monday night packed the small trailer that has been Town Hall since Hurricane Rita swept in six feet of storm surge on Sept. 24, 2005.
Low-hanging, baggy pants have become a fashion fad, mostly for young men in the hip-hop culture. Several residents objected that the ordinance targeted blacks.
Broussard denied any racial motivation. "White people wear sagging pants, too. Anybody who wears these pants should be held responsible."
Although Roy, who is black, introduced the ordinance, he said a $500 fine is outrageous: "I think it should be something like $25."
The ordinance states, "It shall be unlawful for any person in any public place or in view of the public to be found in a state of nudity, or partial nudity, or in dress not becoming to his or her sex, or in any indecent exposure of his or her person or undergarments, or be guilty of any indecent or lewd behavior."
The law applies to women as well as men, the mayor said Wednesday. "If you expose some of your privates, the crack of your behind, if somebody feels insulted they should press charges. If you're offended by it, we want to straighten that out."
The clause about "dress not becoming to his or her sex" doesn't forbid cross-dressing, Broussard said. "A dress, I wouldn't find that obscene. As long as he covers himself and it's not too short."
The ordinance isn't needed because the state has an indecent exposure law, resident Sylvester Harris said during Monday's meeting. But town attorney Ted Ayo said the measure expands on the state law by adding underwear to the list of forbidden exposures.
"This is a new ordinance that deals specifically with sagging pants," Ayo said. "It's about showing off your underwear in public."
Town resident Adam George had another objection. "It's just going to be harassment," he said at the Monday meeting. "People that don't like me are going to call and complain on me and say I've got saggy pants. I'm going to have to pay to bond out, even if I'm right."
Police Chief James Broussard said he didn't have a problem with George's pants, which hung below his waist but were covered by a long T-shirt.
"It's not like I'm showing my privates or anything like that," George said. "It's my boxers."
Broussard's public advice for people who like their pants to hang low: "Just wear it properly. Cover your vital parts. I mean, if you expose your private parts, you'll get a fine. If you walk up and your pants drop, you get a fine. They're better off taking the pants off and just wearing a dress."