Last edited: February 14, 2005

Ohio "Gay Flirting" Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Advocate, 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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