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Law would make it tough to be in the buff

There is no state law in Florida against being naked in public.

That's right.

Although your county or city might have its own nudity ordinance, under state law it is not illegal to prance around without a stitch on.

State law does say it's illegal to be naked in public "in a vulgar or indecent manner." That's Florida Statute 800.03.

But the courts have thrown out that law, saying it is too vague.

So, at the moment, we are unprotected from public nudity. It is a wonder that hordes of opportunistic naked people have not descended on Florida.

Two members of the Legislature have come forward to address this. I refer to House Bill 1241 and its identical twin, Senate Bill 1280.

As it happens, both sponsors _ Buddy Johnson, a state representative, and John Grant, a state senator _ are from Hillsborough County.

Make of that what you will. I make no insinuations of my own regarding Hillsborough County.

Johnson and Grant get right to the point in their bill. "Nude" is what you are when your pubic area _ or a woman's breast below the top of the nipple _ is not shielded from view by a "fully opaque covering."

The law is silent regarding buttocks. While the state looks after your front side, it is up to the local communities of Florida to cover your buttocks, as it were, with local ordinances, such as Clearwater's new ban on T-back bathing suits.

But Grant and Johnson do not stop there with their proposed law. If they did, it would be illegal for all of us to be nude in our own homes, let alone anywhere else it might be necessary.

So, helpfully, the bill includes a list of places besides the home where it would be legal to be naked. The first version of this list included:

Single-sex restrooms, showers, locker rooms and dressing rooms.

Motel rooms.

Doctor's offices and hospitals.

Finally, a catch-all: "Any similar place where nudity or exposure is necessarily and customarily expected outside of the home."

Now, listing the places you can be naked instead of just where you can't be naked is risky business.

Sure as anything, other places are bound to pop up.

Nudist colonies, for example.

Somebody pointed out the bill as originally written would have accidentally outlawed nudist colonies. So they were added to the list.

Then somebody pointed out Florida is trying to get more Hollywood movies made here. Do we need a special exception in case there's a nude scene in the script? Or will police be standing by, waiting to raid the set?

Those are just a couple of unexpected wrinkles. It is a sure thing there will be others. Maybe you can come up with more examples of your own.

After defining nudity, and listing where you can be naked, the Grant-Johnson bill then goes on to say where you can't be naked, which, in general, is any "public place."

Streets.

Sidewalks.

Parks.

Beaches.

Or any place where "a person may reasonably be expected to be observed by the public."

It is here that our enthusiastic lawmakers get a little carried away. Having dealt with the threat of outdoor nudity, they decided to try to outlaw indoor nudity _ that is, nude dancing.

However, it is one thing to regulate the public streets and sidewalks, and another thing entirely to get into strip-joint laws. So the indoor part of the bill might get cut out so the outdoor part will have smoother sailing.

Toward the end of the bill, the authors include an exception in the nudity law for mothers who are breast-feeding. That will save them a lot of grief.

Finally, the bill gives a tip of the hat to the First Amendment, allowing nudity that is "expressive conduct . . . necessary for the conveyance of a genuine message." So the playhouses will be protected, but who knows what kind of new political protests might crop up.

The bill's fate is unclear. The House is said to be waiting to see what the Senate does. I predict it will pass; you do not see many politicians voting for nudity in an election year.

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