Meet the Passionate 'Driving Force' Behind Fla. City's Saggy Pants Ban

Councilwoman wins ban after 5-year fight: 'It’s just disrespectful.'

ByABC News
July 22, 2014, 7:37 PM
Two youths wear their pants with the underwear showing on April 23, 2009 in Riviera Beach, Fla.
Two youths wear their pants with the underwear showing on April 23, 2009 in Riviera Beach, Fla.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

— -- A Florida city councilwoman, tired of seeing young men walk the streets of Ocala with their underwear showing, finally convinced her fellow councilmembers to put a stop to it after a five-year battle.

Mary Sue Rich, a councilwoman for Ocala, was "the driving force,” for the law, said Jeannine Robbins, public information officer for the City of Ocala.

The ordinance, passed July 15 in a unanimous vote, makes it illegal to wear pants two inches below the natural waistline, with violators facing a penalty of possible jail time and a fine of up to $500. The ordinance affects city-owned or leased property, including sidewalks, streets and parks.

“Sometimes fads come in and they go out, but this one, to me, just seems to be getting worse," Councilwoman Rich told ABC News. “I’m just tired of looking at young men’s underwear, it’s just disrespectful.”

Rich, a retired probation senior supervisor for the Florida Department of Corrections, believes the ordinance will have a positive effect.

“I think it would make [individuals who wear sagging pants] respect themselves, and I would wager 9 out of 10 of them don’t have jobs,” she said.

Her push a few years back to pass an ordinance to ban the saggy pants was brushed aside over racial profiling concerns.

“Everyone’s saying I’m targeting young black men,” she added. “I’m black. I’ve been black for a long time, why would I be targeting black men? I would just like to ask one of these men ‘What is the advantage of pulling your pants down so far?’”

But not everybody agrees is on board with the anti-sag push, including Mayor Kent Guinn, who may veto it.

“I don’t think it’s a good law,” Guinn told ABC News, “when we start getting into creating laws that prohibit peoples’ freedom of expression and the way they dress, I think you’re getting into some dangerous territory.”

Guinn said “after I thought about it, I thought, ‘this is just a bad law.’ I may not like the way they dress, but I’m not going to make a law about it.”

“It’s nothing personal towards councilwoman Rich,” said Guinn, “you vote for what you believe in your heart is right.”

“I just don’t think you can create laws that make you respect yourself,” he added.

On the fate of the law she worked so hard to implement, Councilwoman Rich simply says, “I guess we’ll see.”