There's a lot of libertarian outrage out there today over the arrest of a Virginia man who was charged with indecent exposure for walking around naked in his own home. He says he was just making coffee at the time (early in the morning), but the complaining mother who was walking with her 7-year-old son says he stood naked in the doorway and then moved in front of an open window so they could still see him as they continued by the place. I'm inclined to side with the guy, since most reports say the woman and her son were cutting through his yard, and I haven't seen that disputed yet. That means his private nudity wasn't seen from public spaces. But police say this and other reports they've had indicate the man wanted to be seen, which is the crucial point:
The Virginia statute makes it illegal for any person to intentionally make "an obscene display or exposure of his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where others are present."
That's similar to the Indiana statue, if any of you want to try this at home. The relevant portion of Indiana Code says that it is public indecency if a person "in a place other than a public place, with the intent to be seen by persons other than invitees and occupants of that place":
(1) engages in sexual intercourse;
(2) engages in deviate sexual conduct;
(3) fondles the person's genitals or the genitals of another person; or
(4) appears in a state of nudity;
Simple nudity seems pretty tame in comparison to the other three, but there you go. This point was addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Barnes v. Glen Theater and Kitty Kat Lounge, a 1991 case from South Bend about whether the First Amendment protects totally nude dancing as legitimate expression. The answer was no. Indiana's "requirement that the dancers wear at least pasties and G-strings," wrote Chief Justice William Rehnquist for the five-justice majority, presumably with a straight face, "is modest, and the bare minimum necessary to achieve the State's purpose." But there is this, in dissent, from Justice Byron White:
We agree with JUSTICE SCALIA that the Indiana statute would not permit 60,000 consenting Hoosiers to expose themselves to each other in the Hoosier Dome. No one can doubt, however, that those same 60,000 Hoosiers would be perfectly free to drive to their respective homes all across Indiana and, once there, to parade around, cavort, and revel in the nude for hours in front of relatives and friends.
What a mental picture, 60,000 consenting Hoosiers cavorting in the Hoosier Dome. Who wouldn't pay to see that? But if you do all this exposing in your respective homes, just pull the drapes, 'K? I refer you to Carlyn Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the American Association for Nude Recreation quoted in the first linked story:
Hawkins said the association advocated naked responsibility.
"We don't want to offend anybody," she said. "We want to be accepted and we don't want any nudist to create any problems."
By all means, be responsbile in your nakedness. And smart. Personally, I would not make coffee while naked. And never, ever, fry bacon in the nude.