Ohio Supreme Court Overturns Anti-Gay Soliciting Law
Lambda Legal applauds decision that strikes down law banning same-sex
May 15, 2002
Midwest Regional Office
11 East Adams, Suite 1008
Chicago, IL 60603
Contact: Heather Sawyer 312-663-4413 x 22
Pat Logue 312-663-4413 x 30
Jennifer Grissom 212-809-8585 x 231
CHICAGOóThe Ohio Supreme Court ruled today that the
stateís importuning (soliciting) law, which criminalizes expressions of
sexual interest between people of the same sex, is unconstitutional.
In a unanimous decision, Ohioís highest court ruled that the law violates
the Equal Protection clauses of the United States and Ohio Constitutions.
Lambda Legal submitted a friend of the court brief with the Ohio
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Ohio Human Rights Bar
Association, arguing that the law violated guarantees of equal protection and
free speech, and needed to be taken off the books.
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.
"This is a stark rejection of anti-gay discrimination in criminal
laws. 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," said Senior
Staff Attorney Heather C. Sawyer of Lambda Legalís Midwest Regional Office,
who authored the friend of the court brief.
The case of State v. Thompson stems from the conviction of a man who made
passes at a male jogger. When the jogger asked to be left alone, Thompson
complied, but the jogger then complained to the police. Thompson was charged
and convicted of violating the importuning law and sentenced to six months in
jail; he appealed. The Stateís Eleventh District Court of Appeals found that
the law violates equal protection rights, but it upheld the law and Thompsonís
conviction based on a prior ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court.
Ashtabula County Public Defender Marie Lane represented Thompson at trial
and on appeal.
Lambda Legal is the nationís oldest and largest legal organization,
dedicated to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay
men, bisexuals, transgender people, and people with HIV or AIDS. Headquartered
in New York, Lambda Legal has regional offices in Chicago, Los Angeles,
Atlanta, and will be opening an office in Dallas in June.
(State v. Thompson)
Link directly to Lambda Legalís news release: http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/documents/record?record=1046
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