Ohio "Gay Flirting" Law Ruled Unconstitutional
May 16, 2002
The Ohio supreme court ruled Wednesday that the stateís importuning law,
which criminalizes expressions of sexual interest between people of the same
sex, is unconstitutional.
Under the Ohio statute, it was a first-degree misdemeanor for someone to
make a sexual advance toward a person of the same sex, should that advance be
found offensive. The penalty could include up to six months in jail and a fine
of up to $1,000. The law covered advances that involve nothing more than
words, but only if the words are directed at somebody of the same sex. In a
unanimous decision, Ohioís highest court ruled that the law violates the
equal protection clauses of the United States and Ohio constitutions.
"This is a stark rejection of antigay discrimination in criminal
laws," said attorney Heather C. Sawyer of Lambda Legal Defense and
Education Fundís Midwest regional office, who authored a friend of the court
brief arguing that the law violated guarantees of equal protection and free
speech and needed to be taken off the books. "We donít throw men in
jail for making passes at women, and there can be no double standard for gay
people doing the same thing."
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