The Naked Truth about Indiana’s Indecent Exposure Laws

by Will Doss

While the antiquity and ridiculousness of Indiana’s archaic liquor laws are frequently in the news, alcohol is certainly not the only topic with regard to which our great state lags behind the rest of the country.  Marijuana legalization seems an obvious follow-up, but with the current inability to purchase cold beer at a grocery store on a Sunday in Indiana, do Hoosiers really have any chance of legally purchasing the devil’s lettuce, medicinally or otherwise, anytime soon?

Just as perplexing as our alcohol laws is the legal handling of nudity in Indiana.  With the nation’s continued focus on the equal rights of women, not to mention the fluidity of gender as merely a social construct, should our state’s laws continue to differentiate between men and women when it comes to the legal definition of nudity?  Why is it that Indiana is one of only three states, along with Utah and Tennessee, where it is straight-up illegal to bare a female breast in public, while men are free to brazenly flaunt their exposed nipples whenever and wherever they choose?

Pursuant to the federal Equal Protection Clause, nestled comfortably at the end of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Indiana’s equal protection clause, the “Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause,” found in Article I, Section 23 of the Indiana State Constitution, states that “The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”  That means Indiana law must treat everyone equally, regardless of race, gender, or any other classification by which one wishes to differentiate.

Lest the more prurient members of society think this is only about checking out women’s boobs, rest assured that there are far more significant social issues in play here.  In addition to the simple issue of equality, there are considerations with regard to breastfeeding, sunbathing, and the legal sexualization of females regardless of their intent.  While all nipples may not be created equal, under the law they should be treated equally.

In February of 2017, the “Free the Nipple” movement won a victory over the city of Fort Collins, Colorado.  U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson granted an injunction against a Fort Collins ordinance which prohibited women from showing their breasts in public.  In granting the injunction on the primary basis of discrimination, the federal judge held that the Fort Collins ordinance “perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire whereas male breasts are not.”  As stated by Denver attorney David Lane, “Any statute that has the words in it ‘Women are prohibited from’ is almost certainly unconstitutional.”

Despite this injunction and similar holdings in other jurisdictions, and contrary to the clamoring of those who continue to support such legislative inequality, women have not taken to the streets in endless hordes, forcing their bare breasts upon the general population and permanently damaging our fragile children.  Even in the prudish conservative state of Indiana, neither alcohol sales on Sundays nor the occasional exposure of a female nipple will bring our society to its tragic and calamitous end.  Just don’t get TOO excited about the possibility of our state eventually following the rest of the country, as the statutory definition of “nudity” in Indiana also includes “the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.”

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A Conversation with John Brannon

Brannon Sowers Cracraft Director John Brannon

I sat down with Brannon Sowers & Cracraft founder and Director John Brannon a few weeks ago. I’ve known John for years, as a client and a friend. It is no surprise that he is known as one of the most interesting characters in the Indianapolis law scene. A Ceramics Engineering and Materials Scientist by education and a leading patent attorneys by practice, Brannon has been a pillar of the intellectual property landscape here for a couple decades now. After a stint with Big Law, he decided to break away and start a smaller, more agile, IP-focused firm with a decidedly different structure and culture. Read on to find out why.

CF: What was your initial guiding vision for Brannon Sowers & Cracraft?

JB: I’ll frame that by saying that I spent 5 years at General Electric where you had to have a mission statement and a vision statement, and I quickly became inoculated to that concept.  I don’t believe in vision statements.

CF: So what was the inspiration behind saying ‘I’m going to do my own thing?’

JB: What I tried to put together, and I think we’ve been fairly successful at this, is a law firm that attracts people who are good at what they do and have decent books of business. The firm allows attorneys to keep more of what they bring in, while at the same time being more economically minded for the client. We don’t charge as much, and the people who actually do the work keep more of what they earn. Everybody is compensated on the same schedule. There isn’t a different compensation structure for the owners. Actually, the first thing I did when I opened my doors was cut my rate by 27%. I still make more money on the hours that I bill. So everybody wins.

CF: What do you view as your role? 

JB: In addition to practicing law for my clients, my job at the firm is to keep things moving forward. I’m essentially a volunteer administrator, but that’s okay because I get to make the rules.

CF: I’ve known you for years, and this past 8 months at the firm I’ve noticed that you invest heavily in your colleagues in terms of both their professional and personal development. Is it fair to say that you care holistically about the people you hire?

JB: Yeah probably. Although that’s a bit mushy for my taste.

CF: What’s one thing you’d like to get better at?

JB: I need to get tougher about getting retainers up front. I love doing the work, and I don’t always pay enough attention to the billing aspect.

CF: Is there one experience that prepared you to go out on your own?

JB: Several. Big firms are willing to believe the worst about everybody that works for them. They tend to minimize problems in the most expeditious way possible rather than in the just or correct way. I got tired of that. People deserve to be treated as individuals.

Space Ghost. Brannon has an extension comic book collection.

CF: Give an example of when you’ve been particularly proud of one of your colleagues

JB: That’s easy. That would be Amy. When she and I started the firm together she was an experienced paralegal. Since we opened our doors she finished her bachelor’s degree. She then applied and got accepted into law school, attending night classes while working full time. She graduated law school a semester early, and has taken off and become a very good attorney.

CF: Ok, time for some free association. Who is the Class Clown?

JB: There are so many!

CF: The nutty professor?

JB: Kevin McLaren

CF: The social director?

JB: Patty Hughel

CF: The mad scientist? 

JB: Kevin Erdman

CF: The know-it-all? 

JB: David Novak

CF: The tech nerd? 

JB: Danton Bryans

CF: The king or queen of the name drop/humblebrag?

JB: He’s no longer with the firm (laughing).

CF: What is your greatest achievement outside of your career?

JB: My son Adam. I take full credit for every success he has ever had or will have in the future. (laughter)

CF: What’s the most important thing you can teach him?

JB: Hard work, preparedness. If it’s not already out there, go out and make it happen. If it doesn’t exist, create it.

CF: What is your quirkiest hobby?

JB: My extensive comic book collection.

CF: Favorite book? 

JB: Fantastic Voyage, Isaac Asimov.

CF: Movie? 

JB: Batman 1966 with Adam West.

CF: Quote? 

JB: “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” (Adam West in Batman, 1966)

CF: Band? 

JB: The Go-Gos. Or Billy Joel.

CF: Local restaurant? 

JB: St. Joseph’s Brewery and Public House. The stuffed jalapenos are awesome.

CF: Drink of choice?

JB: Bourbon. Neat.

CF: Conspiracy theory? 

JB: Professional wrestling is real. 

CF: Charitable organization? 

JB: Nickel Plate Art Galleries

CF: Thanks for your time, John!