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Tilli Buchanan sits in Judge Kara Pettit's 3rd District Courtroom in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. Her attorneys, Leah Farrell, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, and Randy Richards argued on her behalf that Utah’s lewdness statute is unconstitutional because it discriminates against women. Buchanan is facing charges of lewdness involving a child after police say she took off her shirt while cleaning out the garage and her stepchildren saw her topless. Pettit is expected to rule in two months. (Photo: Leah Hogsten, Salt Lake Tribune)
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Law Banning Toplessness For Women Unconstitutional, Attorneys Argue

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A Utah woman is fighting criminal charges after she said her stepchildren spotted her topless in her own home.

Deseret News reports that Tilli Buchanan’s lawyers asked a judge to declare a portion of Utah’s lewdness law unconstitutional, saying that it treats women differently than men for the exact same conduct.

The charges stem from an incident in 2018 when Buchanan and her husband were hanging drywall in their garage. Buchanan said the two of them took their shirts off in order to keep their clothes from getting dusty. Her three step-children, who were all younger than 13, saw her topless and asked why she wasn’t wearing a shirt.

“Tilli explained that she considers herself a feminist and she wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,” according to her attorneys’ court filings earlier this year.

The court documents say after the two had finished hanging the drywall, they showered, put on fresh clothes, and made dinner for the family.

This led to three counts of lewdness in front of a child, class A misdemeanor. If she’s convicted of the charges, she’ll have to register as a sex offender.

Buchanan’s lawyers said she wouldn’t be facing those charges if she were a man.

Attorney Leah Farrell with the ACLU of Utah said the state’s statute defines a part of a woman as “inherently obscene,” but on a man’s body it’s not.

“That really sets up an unequal, unfair dichotomy,” she said.

Farrell argued that Utah’s law violates Buchanan’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection. She said it’s similar to a case in Fort Collins, Colorado, where the city banned women, but not men, from being topless in public. That ban was found unconstitutional by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The judge is expected to make a decision in the case in the coming months.

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