Last edited: February 14, 2005

Editorial: Crude, Rude—and Legal

Plain Dealer, May 21, 2002
1801 Superior Ave., Cleveland Ohio 44114
Fax: 216-999-6209

It took two decades, but the Ohio Supreme Court finally struck down a dubious law that made it illegal to demand a smooch—or more—from a person of the same sex. The seven justices arrived at their decision from slightly different viewpoints, but they all rightly found it unconstitutional.

Justice Deborah Cook saw it as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, while Justice Paul Pfeifer, in a concurring opinion, called the importuning law an unconstitutional ban on homosexual activity.

The court’s attention focused on crass, but not criminal, Eric Thompson. In 1999, Thompson hollered a number of ear-burning comments to a male jogger in Ashtabula including, "You’re hot and sexy."

The jogger did something most women dream of doing: He called the police and had the man arrested for violating a 1974 law that forbade same-sex solicitation. After Thompson was convicted of this misdemeanor, he sued.

Although the court upheld the law in 1979, it failed to notice its rickety foundation. Based on the doctrine of "fighting words," it criminalized any proposition to a member of the same sex when the person "knows such a solicitation is offensive to the other person, or is reckless in that regard."

Translation: If you had some inkling your boorish pickup lines might put you at the receiving end of a body slam, they were illegal.

Still, Cook reasoned, the law violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law. If Ohio wants to limit the risks of potentially violent responses to sexual entreaties, she said, the state would have to apply the law to heterosexuals as well. Pfeifer argued that the law should be struck down because it sought to stop homosexual behavior, which is none of the state’s business.

No matter, they both agreed that the remedy for such deplorable imploring isn’t a judge and a jury. It’s a brutal brush-off.

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