LGBT rights in Ohio

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LGBT rights in Ohio
Map of USA OH.svg
Same-sex sexual activity legal status Legal since 1979
Gender identity/expression State does not alter sex on birth certificates for transgender people
Discrimination protections There are no statewide protections in Ohio for sexual orientation and gender identity outside of state employment
Family rights
Recognition of
Marriage legal
Adoption Joint and stepchild adoption legal[1]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Ohio face some legal challenges non-LGBT residents do not. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Ohio. Families headed by same-sex spouses are eligible for the same protections available to different-sex spouses.[1]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

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 in 1974. It remained a misdemeanor to express romantic or sexual interest to another person of the same sex, but in 1979 a state court decision narrowed that provision to cover only cases in which the proposition was "unwelcome".[2] The broad discriminatory nature of the application of the importuning law is illustrated in the State v. Thompson case. Eric Thompson made a sexual pass at a fellow jogger and, after the jogger declined, continued on his way. The jogger contacted the police, however, and Thompson was arrested and sentenced to 6 months in jail. Thompson's legal battle led to the law finally being overturned by the United States Supreme Court in the State of Ohio v. Thompson. On 26 June 2003, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas to abolish all remaining sodomy laws and statutes nationwide.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]


LGBT flag map of Ohio

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Ohio since June 2015.

  • Obergefell v. Hodges

On June 26, 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that Ohio (along with Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee) could not deny same-sex couples the right to marry, or refuse to recognize their marriages performed elsewhere; protected under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This ruling reversed a November 2014 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in those states and nationwide.[3]

  • Defense of Marriage Act

Representative Bill Seitz introduced the Defense of Marriage Act in the state House of Representatives in 2003. It passed the House by a vote of 73-23 in December 2003 and the Senate in a 18-15 vote in January 2004.[4] It was opposed by many Democrats in the Senate, joined by four Republicans, and Governor Bob Taft signed the legislation on February 6, 2004. The legislation was enacted in the aftermath of the Goodridge decision on November 18, 2003, in Massachusetts.

  • Constitutional amendment

Ballot Issue 1 of 2004 was a constitutional amendment initiated by the Legislature and approved by a margin of 61%-38%. Governor Taft and Rep. Bill Seitz both opposed the amendment on the grounds that it was too vague. It amended Article XV, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution to defined marriage so as to exclude same-sex couples. Official supporters were Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage and the Traditional Marriage Crusade. Ohioans for Fairness led the opposition to the amendment. This amendment to Ohio's Constitution was later invalidated by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges.[5]

Domestic partnerships[edit]

Nine cities, the village of Yellow Springs, and the counties of Cuyahoga and Franklin offer domestic partnership registries.

Map of Ohio counties, cities, and villages that offer marriage and/or domestic partner benefits either county-wide or in particular cities.
  City or village offers marriage and/or domestic partner benefits
  Marriage and/or county-wide partner benefits through domestic partnership
  Marriage only. County, city, or village does not offer domestic partner benefits

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Single LGBT individuals are permitted to adopt in Ohio.[6] Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, joint and stepchild adoption are also legal for same-sex spouses in Ohio.[7]

Discrimination protections[edit]

There are no statewide protections in Ohio for sexual orientation and gender identity outside of state employment. Discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity, is prohibited within state employment under an executive order issued by Governor John Kasich on January 21, 2011. Thirty Ohio cities and counties have anti-discrimination ordinances prohibiting employment and housing discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation.

Map of Ohio counties, cities, and villages that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances. Note: This map may not list all current localities.
  Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation and gender identity in public employment
  Sexual orientation solely in state employment

Hate crimes[edit]

Ohio's hate crime laws address violence based on race, color, religion or national origin, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. However, federal law does provide some protections within the State.

  • Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, is an American Act of Congress, passed on October 22, 2009, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009, as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 (H.R. 2647). Conceived as a response to the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., the measure expands the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The bill also removes the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity like voting or going to school, gives federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue, provides $5 million per year in funding for fiscal years 2010 through 2012 to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes and requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to track statistics on hate crimes based on gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups were already tracked).

Freedom of expression[edit]

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". The board explained their position, “Wayne Local School District Board of Education had the right to limit clothing with sexual slogans, especially in light what was then a highly charged atmosphere, in order to protect its students and enhance the educational environment. Consequently, the high school principal was well within the bounds of his authority to request that the student remove his T-shirt and refrain from wearing the T-shirt in the future.”.[8] 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.[9][10]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

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.[11]

In order for transgender people to change their name/gender on their Ohio ID, they must submit a court order certifying the name change and/or a Declaration of Gender Change form signed by a physician or psychologist certifying the applicant's gender identity.[12]

Conversion therapy[edit]

A bill to prohibit the use of conversion therapy on LGBT minors in Ohio was introduced by Senator Charleta Tavares in February 2015. The bill, however, died without any legislative action.[13]

Local bans[edit]

On December 9, 2015, the Cincinnati City Council voted 7-2 in favor of Ordinance 373, an ordinance banning conversion therapy on minors, and it went into effect on January 9, 2016.[14] Cincinnati became the first city in the United States to ban the use of conversion therapy on LGBT minors.

On February 7, 2017, the Toledo City Council unanimously approved a ban on conversion therapy.[15]

On March 27, 2017, the Columbus City Council approved legislation prohibiting conversion therapy with the aim of altering the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth.[16][17] Columbus became the 3rd city in Ohio to ban the use of conversion therapy on LGBT minors.

Dayton and Athens followed suit in July and August 2017, respectively.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ohio Marriage and Stepparent law; The Columbus Dispatch". the columbus dispatch. July 5, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  2. ^ Eskridge, William N. (2008). Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003. NY: Viking Penguin. pp. 49, 50, 180. 
  3. ^ "The Latest: Same-sex marriages underway in Ohio". Fox 19 Now. June 26, 2015. Archived from the original on June 27, 2015. Retrieved June 26, 2015. 
  4. ^ Sub. H.B. 272 Archived September 29, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Ohio citizens approve Issue 1". The Post (Ohio University). November 3, 2004. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Ohio Adoption Law Human Rights Campaign". December 14, 2009. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Ohio Stepparent Adoption law; Columbus Dispatch". columbusdispatch. July 5, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  8. ^ Martin, Shawn (April 4, 2012). "Ohio teen Maverick Couch takes school to court over 'Jesus is not a homophobe' shirt". ABC15. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ Budd, Lawrence (May 4, 2012). "District proposes T-shirt case settlement". The Western Star. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  10. ^ Michael, Gryboski (May 22, 2012). "Court Judgment: Ohio Student Can Wear 'Jesus Is Not a Homophobe' Shirt,". Christian Post. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  11. ^ Levi, Jennifer L.; Monnin-Browder, Elizabeth E., eds. (2012). Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. pp. 59n58. 
  12. ^ ID Documents Center: Ohio National Center of Transgender Equality
  13. ^ OH SB74 | 2015-2016 | 131st General Assembly
  14. ^ Council votes to ban gay 'conversion' therapy in Cincinnati
  15. ^ Toledo City Council approves conversion therapy ban
  16. ^ "Columbus Bans 'Ex-Gay' Therapy To Minors". On Top Magazine. Retrieved 2017-03-30. 
  17. ^ Press, Associated. "Columbus Council Bans Conversion Therapy by Mental Health Professionals". Retrieved 2017-03-30. 
  18. ^ Dayton looks to ban gay-conversion therapy for youth
  19. ^ Conversion Therapy Banned in Athens