Barnes v. Glen Theatre Inc.

RESPONDENT: Glen Theatre Inc.
LOCATION: Theatre and Lounge

DOCKET NO.: 90-26
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 501 US 560 (1991)
ARGUED: Jan 08, 1991
DECIDED: Jun 21, 1991

Bruce J. Ennis, Jr. - Argued the cause for the respondents
Wayne E. Uhl - Argued the cause for the petitioners

Facts of the case

Glen Theatre and the Kitty Kat Lounge in South Bend, Indiana, operated entertainment establishments with totally nude dancers. An Indiana law regulating public nudity required dancers to wear "pasties" and a "G-string" when they perform. The Theatre and Lounge sued to stop enforcement of the statute.


Does a state prohibition against complete nudity in public places violate the First Amendment's freedom of expression guarantee?

Media for Barnes v. Glen Theatre Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 08, 1991 in Barnes v. Glen Theatre Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 21, 1991 in Barnes v. Glen Theatre Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the Court to announce in No.90-26, Barnes versus Glen Theater, Inc at el.

In this case, the respondents are two Indiana establishments who wish to provide totally nude dancing as entertainment and also individual dancers employed there.

They sued to enjoined the enforcement of Indiana's public indecency statute which prohibits nudity in public places.

The law requires the dancers to wear at least pasties and a G-string.

Respondents assert that this law violated the First Amendment by infringing their freedom of expression.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed with them.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

In an opinion which I have written, which Justices O'Connor and Kennedy have joined, we conclude that although nude dancing of its kind thought to be performed here is expressive conduct within the outer perimeters of the First Amendment.

The enforcement of Indiana's public indecency law to prevent totally nude dancing, does not violate the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of expression.

The Indiana's statute follows a long line of state laws banning public nudity and reflects moral disapproval of people appearing in the nude among strangers in public places.

This governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression since public nudity is the evil the state seeks to prevent whether or not it is combined with expressive activity.

The law does not ban nudity in these establishments because the dancers are conveying an erotic message.

To the contrary, an erotic performance may be presented without any state interference so long as the performers wear a scant amount of clothing.

We think the incidental restriction on First Amendment freedom is no greater than it's essential to the furtherance of the government interest.

Justices Scalia and Souter have each filed separate opinions concurring in the judgment.

Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Marshall, Blackmun, and Stevens have joined.