High Court Asked to Review Ohios Gay-Only Proposition Ban
Peoples Chronicle, May 4, 2001
P.O. Box 5426, Cleveland, Ohio 44101
By Anthony Glassman
Jefferson, Ohio An Ohio law making it a crime to
proposition someone of the same sex may be challenged in the Ohio Supreme
Under Ohios "importuning" law, it is a first-degree
misdemeanor to solicit a "person of the same sex to engage in sexual
activity, knowing that such solicitation was offensive to the other person or
being reckless in that regard." The law does not apply to heterosexual
The statute is often used for police stings in parks, where gay men are
charged for asking an undercover officer if they are interested in sex.
But Eric R. Thompson was not in a park when he was charged with importuning
on July 26, 1999. As he was returning from driving his father to work in
Jefferson, he stopped to ask a male jogger if he wanted oral sex. When the
jogger said no, Thompson left, but he jogger complained to police.
Thompsons attorney, Ashtabula County public defender Marie Lane, moved
to dismiss the charge, arguing that the law violates federal and state
constitutional rights to equal protection under the law. The trial court
rejected the motion, and convicted Thompson.
Since Thompson was on parole for an earlier burglary conviction, he was
returned to prison and served the rest of his sentence, plus six months for
importuning. He was released in January 2001.
Lane appealed the conviction, and the case went to the Ohio Eleventh
District Court of Appeals in Portage County. That court upheld the conviction
in December 2000, but did so reluctantly.
"What is not clear is why [the law] would only apply to same sex
solicitation and not to opposite sex solicitation," the appeals court
commented in its ruling. "It is inherently inconsistent for the Ohio
legislature to now criminalize homosexual solicitation after it has chosen to
decriminalize homosexual conduct between consenting adults."
The legislature decriminalized gay sex when it repealed Ohios sodomy law
"Further, it is without a doubt that heterosexual solicitation may be
equally repugnant, offensive, and inciteful to violence as homosexual
solicitation," the court continued.
However, the appeals court found that in two previous cases, the Ohio
Supreme Court has upheld the importuning law. One challenge was based on
different constitutional arguments, and the other did not provide a published
decision, something Lane says renders that case non-binding as a precedent.
The prosecutors in the case argued that the law did not violate equal
protection provisions, since any person soliciting a member of the same sex,
whether they were gay or not, could be charged under the law.
The appeals court, however, found that the argument did not hold under
"It is somewhat unnerving to find that the pregnant men are treated
the same as pregnant women rationale is alive and well today," the
court wrote, referring to a California case cited in their ruling. The court
also noted that, while it viewed the prosecutors as "defending the
undefendable," "We appreciate the fact that the prosecution has
little choice but to defend."
The appeals court also urged the Ohio Supreme Court to look into the matter
and provide a written decision based on the equal protection argument.
Two gay and lesbian groups, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and
the Ohio Human Rights Bar Association, have filed friend-of-the-court briefs
in the case, along with the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The
Ashtabula County prosecutors office is also pressing for the court to take
up the case.
Lane, however, has a more pressing reason for pursuing the case. For her,
it is about fairness, and protecting those she loves.
"Honestly, its really unfair," she said. "I have a lot of
gay friends, and the thought that my dear friend Jimmy could be arrested for
this upsets me."
The Ohio Supreme Court has not yet announced whether they will hear the
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