Facts of the Case
Two nude dancing and adult entertainment establishments in South Bend, Indiana—the Kitty Kat Lounge, Inc. and Glen Theatre, Inc.—sued in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to stop the enforcement of a an Indiana public indecency statute that banned full nudity in public places. Per the statute, dancers were required to wear pasties and G-strings when performing before audiences in these establishments.
Does a state public indecency law banning nudity in public places violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment?
No. Per majority opinion delivered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the Court held that enforcement of public indecency statute to prevent totally nude dancing does not violate the freedom of expression guarantee of First Amendment (401 U.S. 560 at 1).
The Court determined that the statute was within the state’s constitutional power and that it furthered a substantial government interest in protecting societal order and morality. In arriving at its decision, the Court employed the four-part United States v. O’Brien (391 U.S. 367). when it reasoned the government interest was unrelated to the suppression of free expression, and incidental restriction on First Amendment freedom was no greater than was essential to furtherance of the governmental interest (401 U.S. 560 at 3).