A Utah Woman Was Charged for Going Topless in Her Own Home. Her Legal Case Is Not Going Great.

A judge denied Tilli Buchanan’s motion to declare the state’s lewdness law discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Tilli Buchanan in court in NovemberLeah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune/AP

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A Utah judge just denied a local woman’s motion to declare the state’s lewdness law unconstitutional after she was slammed with criminal charges for going topless in her own home.

Last year Tilli Buchanan was charged with lewdness after she and her husband took their shirts off while installing insulation in their garage. Her husband, who was in a similar state of undress, was not charged. Buchanan’s stepchildren were also there. Their mother was the one who reported Buchanan to the authorities. As I wrote back in September:

Even though Buchanan was topless in the privacy of her own home, she is now facing potentially very serious consequences: three counts of lewdness involving a child, a class A misdemeanor which could land her in jail and place her on the sex offender registry for 10 years. Utah’s ordinance about lewdness involving a child prohibits the exposure of “the female breast below the top of the areola,” either in public or “in a private place under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor or the child.” 

Buchanan’s attorneys filed a motion to declare Utah’s lewdness statute unconstitutional because it discriminates against women, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. They based their motion on a 10th Circuit Court ruling that found a Fort Collins, Colorado, ban on female toplessness unconstitutional because it did not apply similarly to men. The judge in Buchanan’s case claimed that that ruling did not apply here as the Utah law is “significantly different.”

“It is the prerogative of the Legislature to establish laws incorporating contemporary community standards regarding lewdness,” the judge wrote, according to the Tribune. “It is not for the court to decide whether the Legislature’s enumeration of lewd conduct is wise or sound policy.”

So the law stands, and if Buchanan does not appeal the judge’s decision, the case against her will move to trial.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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