A Utah woman is facing criminal charges, and may have to register as a sex offender, after her stepchildren saw her topless in her own home, CBS News reported. The woman, Tilli Buchanan, said that the laws about public decency treat women unfairly compared to men.
Back in late 2017 or early 2018, Buchanan and her husband were working in their garage when they both took off their shirts in order to keep them from getting dusty. Buchanan’s stepchildren, aged nine and 13 at the time, walked in. Buchanan says that she then explained to them at the time that “she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,” according to her attorney.
Nobody appears to have complained at the time. However, the situation came to the attention of authorities in February. Child welfare authorities, investigating an incident that involved the children but not Tilli, learned of the topless incident when the children’s biological mother reported Buchanan. The woman said the incident “alarmed” her.
Authorities charged Buchanan with misdemeanor lewdness.
Buchanan said she is fighting the charge, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that she was in her own home when the incident happened, not out in public.
However, the heart of Buchanan’s argument is that she and her attorneys believe that public indecency laws are unfair to women, as they allow men to take off their shirts in many public spaces, while for a woman to do the same is a crime in many jurisdictions.
“My husband was right next to me in the same exact manner that I was, and he’s not being prosecuted,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan also has legal precedent on her side. In February, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a ruling blocking a Fort Collins, Colorado, ban on women going topless in public. However, lawyers note that the ruling does not necessarily invalidate local laws about public indecency.
Prosecutors in the Buchanan case say that it’s simply “understood” that the word “nudity,” when it comes to the law, includes women’s bare breasts. Courts have upheld such laws, prosecutors say, on the basis of morality.
Buchanan has asked Judge Kara Pettit to overturn the charge against her — a charge that could result in her having to register as a sex offender for the next ten years. Judge Pettit, for her part, heard the case on Tuesday but decided the case is “too important” to rule on immediately. She has instead promised to issue a ruling in the next few months.