Finally Legal to Cruise in Ohio
May 18, 2002
ClevelandóThe Ohio Supreme Court has overturned a
law used to arrest gays who try to pick up other men.
The law, called the "Importuning Act" made expressions of sexual
interest between people of the same sex, if the other party objected, a crime.
In a unanimous decision, the 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 Defence 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 misdemeanour 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 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.
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