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Friday, September 06, 2013

Courts - New play uses 1991 SCOTUS argument to debate the pros and cons of public nudity [Updated]

And it is a case from Indiana.

From the WSJ today ($$), a story by Ellen Gamerman - some quotes:

The Public Theater is presenting work by an unlikely new playwright: the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Arguendo," starting previews this Tuesday at New York's Public Theater, is a word-for-word performance of an entire 1991 Supreme Court argument, Barnes v. Glen Theatre, a lawsuit brought by go-go dance establishments to stop enforcement of an Indiana public indecency law barring such entertainers from appearing totally nude. The case explored whether that statute violated the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of expression.

The story relates that the play director discovered the archive of oral arguments of the SCOTUS at Oyez.org, and found the case involving exotic dancers:
It clicked for him as a play not just because of the absurd juxtaposition of robed justices and pasties and G-strings, but because the case explored accessible ideas like the limits of free speech and the meaning of performance.
ILB: Here is the Oyez page on Barnes v. Glen Theatre, including both the audio of the oral argument, and the resulting opinion. From the page:
Facts of the Case

Glen Theatre and the Kitty Kat Lounge in South Bend, Indiana, operated entertainment establishments with totally nude dancers. An Indiana law regulating public nudity required dancers to wear "pasties" and a "G-string" when they perform. The Theatre and Lounge sued to stop enforcement of the statute.

Question

Does a state prohibition against complete nudity in public places violate the First Amendment's freedom of expression guarantee?

Conclusion

No. The Court was fractured (5-4) and there was no majority opinion. Chief Justice Rehnquist, in a plurality opinion, conceded that nude dancing was a form of expressive activity. But he maintained that the public indecency statute is justified despite the incidental limitations on such expressive activity. The statute "furthers a substantial government interest in protecting order and morality." The proscription on public nudity is unrelated to the erotic message the dancers seek to convey.

[Updated at 9:30 AM] A reader writes:
I wonder how many people realize the named party in the case was Michael Barnes, then St Joseph County prosecutor and, since 2000, a judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 6, 2013 08:09 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts