Last edited: February 14, 2005

Ohio Supreme Court Overturns Anti-Gay Soliciting Law

Lambda Legal applauds decision that strikes down law banning same-sex flirting

Lambda Legal, May 15, 2002
Midwest Regional Office
11 East Adams, Suite 1008
Chicago, IL 60603
312-663-4413 phone
312-663-4307 fax

News Release
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:

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