LGBT rights in Ohio
|LGBT rights in Ohio|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Legal since 1974|
|Discrimination protections||Prohibited within government employment|
|Domestic Partnership Registries in certain cities|
Laws against same-sex sexual activity
Ohio adopted its first sodomy law in 1885 and revised it to include fellatio in 1889. It became the eighth state to repeal its sodomy statute on December 22, 1972. It remained a misdemeanor to propose sodomy to another person, but in 1979 a state court decision narrowed that provision to cover only cases in which the proposition was "unwelcome".
Recognition of same-sex relationships
In 2004, voters approved a constitutional amendment, Ohio State Issue 1, that banned same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state. It passed with 62% of the vote. Domestic partnership registries were not affected, nor did the measure affect the state's domestic abuse laws.
FreedomOhio and Equality Ohio are considering a ballot initiative for the 2014 or 2016 elections which would replace the constitutional amendment to allow same-sex marriage. Two prominent Republicans, Senator Rob Portman and former Attorney General Jim Petro, support repealing the same-sex marriage ban.
Obergefell v. Wymyslo
A Cincinnati, Ohio same-sex couple has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Southern District of Ohio on July 19, 2013, alleging that their home state discriminates against same-sex couples who have married lawfully out-of-state. As one partner, John Arthur, is terminally ill and suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the couple wants to have the Ohio Registrar recognize their July 11, 2013, Maryland marriage on the death certificate and have the other partner, James Obergefell, listed as the surviving spouse; equal to what is recorded when a partner in an opposite-sex marriage passes away. While the local Ohio Registrar believes that discriminating against the same-sex married couple is unconstitutional, the state attorney general's office will fight this case to uphold Ohio's same-sex marriage ban.
The case, originally captioned as Obergefell v. Kasich with Ohio governor John Kasich as the lead named defendant, is before District Judge Timothy S. Black. On July 22, Judge Black granted the same-sex couple's motion, temporarily restraining the Ohio Registrar from accepting for recording any death certificate without it showing the deceased's status at death as "married," and his partner as "surviving spouse." In his order granting the motion, the judge found that "[t]hroughout Ohio’s history, Ohio law has been clear: a marriage solemnized outside of Ohio is valid in Ohio if it is valid where solemnized," and gave examples noting that while unlawful if performed in Ohio, marriages between cousins or minors, if legal out-of-state, continue to be legal upon entering the state. He noted "the restrictions imposed on marriage by states, however, must nonetheless comply with the Constitution," citing Loving v. Virginia and Zablocki v. Redhail cases where state law restricted from marriage interracial couples, and those owing child support, respectively, that those laws violated couples' equal protection guarantees established by the Fourteenth Amendment. Finding recent precedent in Windsor v. United States and Romer v. Evans persuasive when applied to discrimination against persons in same-sex relationships, the judge wrote:
"In derogation of law, the Ohio scheme has unjustifiably created two tiers of couples: (1) opposite-sex married couples legally married in other states; and (2) same-sex married couples legally married in other states. This lack of equal protection of law is fatal."
State attorney general Mike DeWine indicated he would not appeal the preliminary order but would continue to defend the amendment and statute that prevent the state from recognizing a same-sex marriage.
On August 13, 2013, Judge Black extended the temporary restraining order from its original August expiration until the end of December, and scheduled oral arguments on injunctive relief (which is permanent) for December 18, 2013. In the meantime, the plaintiffs drafted a two motions: First, to amend the complaint to include a funeral director as a plaintiff; he would possibly face criminal charges in listing a same-sex couple as married on a death certificate. The complaint would also be amended to prevent dismissal due to mootness should the terminally-ill spouse die before the case concludes. Second, the state defendant Governor Kasich would be dismissed as a defendant, as issues of state sovereignty might arise; he would be replaced by the Director of the Department of Health. Finally, several of the plaintiffs' claims were dropped due to recent changes in Federal law through Windsor.
On September 25, Judge Timothy Black granted the plaintiffs leave to file their amended complaint, and also granted the motion to dismiss the improper defendants, i.e. the governor and the state attorney general. As the health department director was substituted as the lead defendant, the case caption changed to reflect this: Obergefell v. Wymyslo.
On October 22, 2013, the terminally-ill partner in the same-sex marriage, John Arthur, died. The state defendants, including Department of Health Director Wymyslo, subsequently moved to dismiss the case as moot. Judge Black, in his order dated November 1, 2013, recognized "As fully anticipated by all parties, Plaintiff John Arthur died very recently ... The question now arises whether this lawsuit dies with him." Answering his own question, the judge posits: "Believing that courts are designed to be places of recourse, and that judges are not to duck legal questions simply because they are difficult or because the initial status quo has changed, this Court determines that this lawsuit is not amenable to dismissal but instead shall proceed to a full and final disposition, in the trial court, before the new year." Denying the motion to dismiss, Judge Black stated this case will be resolved in late December, 2013.
A March 2013 Saperstein poll for the Columbus Dispatch revealed that 54 percent of Ohio residents surveyed supported a proposed amendment that would overturn the state's 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
According to a 2013 Public Policy Polling survey of 551 Ohio voters conducted between August 16 and 19, 48 percent of respondents support marriage equality, while 42 percent remain opposed. Ten percent said they were not sure. The survey is the first from PPP to find plurality support for gay nuptials in Ohio. Pollsters also found that 69 percent of Ohioans support either marriage (44%) or civil unions (25%) for gay couples, including a majority (54%) of Republican voters. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said that there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.
Domestic partnership registries
Nine cities in Ohio offer domestic partnership registries. The first city to offer domestic partnerships was Cleveland Heights in 2003, which was passed by voter referendum. Toledo began offering domestic partnerships in 2007. In 2008, the Cleveland City Council created a domestic partner registry. In 2011, the Athens City Council established a domestic partner registry. In 2012, the Dayton City Commission, the Cincinnati City Council, and the Columbus City Council approved ordinances creating domestic partnership registries. Yellow Springs and Oberlin created domestic partnership registries in 2012, as did Cuyahoga County.
Single homosexual individuals are permitted to adopt in Ohio. Despite no explicit prohibition, courts have not allowed same-sex couples to do so. Second-parent adoptions are only available to someone recognized by the state as the spouse of the first parent.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity, is prohibited within state employment by an executive order issued by Governor John Kasich on January 21, 2011. There are no statewide protections in Ohio for sexual orientation and gender identity outside of state employment.
Twenty-nine Ohio cities and counties have anti-discrimination ordinances prohibiting discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation.
Freedom of expression
In 2012, 16 year-old high school student Maverick Couch, represented by Lambda Legal, sued the Waynesville Local School District after being told he could not come to school wearing a t-shirt with the words "Jesus is not a homophobe" because it was "sexual in nature and therefore indecent". The suit ended in a judgement in federal court in Cincinnati agreed to by all parties to the suit that affirmed Couch's right to wear the shirt to school and ordered the school district to pay $20,000 in damages and legal fees.
Following a 1987 court case, In re Ladrach, Ohio does not allow persons born in the state to amend the sex information on their birth certificates following sex reassignment surgery.
- Politics of Ohio
- LGBT rights in the United States
- Rights and responsibilities of marriages in the United States
- Equality Ohio
- Law of Ohio
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