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LGBT rights in Ohio
Ohio (USA)
Ohio (USA)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1974
Gender identity/expression State does not alter sex on birth certificates for transsexuals
Recognition of
None statewide; Same-sex marriage recognized (for death certificate purposes only)[1]
Ohio State Issue 1 limits marriage to man/woman, places restrictions on non-marriage types of same-sex unions
Adoption Stepparent adoption illegal
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections in state employment

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in the state of Ohio face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents.

Laws against 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 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".[2]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Constitutional ban[edit]

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.[3] Its impact on the state's domestic abuse law was later clarified when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the language of the statute that referred to a victim of abuse who was "living as a spouse" with a defendant did not constitute the creation of a legal status.[4] Cleveland Taxpayers v. Cleveland, a lawsuit challenging domestic partnership registries as violating the amendment, failed in October 2010.[5]

FreedomOhio and Equality Ohio are seeking state officials' approval of a ballot initiative that would replace the constitutional amendment and allow same-sex marriage.[6][7] Two prominent Republicans, Senator Rob Portman and former Attorney General Jim Petro, support repealing the same-sex marriage ban.[8]


Obergefell case[edit]

A Cincinnati, Ohio, same-sex couple filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Southern District of Ohio on July 19, 2013, alleging that the state discriminates against same-sex couples who have married lawfully out-of-state. Because one partner, John Arthur, was terminally ill and suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), they wanted the Ohio Registrar to identify the other partner, James Obergefell, as his surviving spouse on his death certificate based on their July 11, 2013, Maryland marriage. The local Ohio Registrar agreed that discriminating against the same-sex married couple is unconstitutional, but the state Attorney General's office announced plans to defend Ohio's same-sex marriage ban.[9][10] The suit, Obergefell v. Kasich, was originally named with Ohio governor John Kasich as the lead defendant.[11]

Temporary restraining order[edit]

On July 22, 2013, District Judge Timothy S. Black granted the couple's motion, temporarily restraining the Ohio Registrar from accepting for recording any death certificate unless it recorded the deceased's status at death as "married" and his partner as "surviving spouse".[a][12] Black wrote 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 noted that certain marriages between cousins or minors, while unlawful if performed in Ohio, are recognized by the state if legal when solemnized in other jurisdictions. 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, he wrote:[13]

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.

Ohio 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.[14]

Permanent injunction[edit]

On August 13, 2013, Black extended the temporary restraining order until the end of December and scheduled oral arguments on injunctive relief, which is permanent, for December 18.[b][15] 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, 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. The health department director was substituted as the lead defendant, and the case caption changed to Obergefell v. Wymyslo.[16]

On October 22, plaintiff John Arthur died. The state defendants moved to dismiss the case as moot. Judge Black, in an order dated November 1, denied the motion to dismiss, Judge Black stated this case will be resolved in late December 2013.[17]

Final order[edit]

On December 23, 2013, Judge Black ruled that Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and ordered Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions on death certificates.[c] He wrote: "When a state effectively terminates the marriage of a same-sex couple married in another jurisdiction, it intrudes into the realm of private marital, family, and intimate relations specifically protected by the Supreme Court".[18]

Court of Appeals proceedings[edit]

On January 17, 2014, DeWine filed notice in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that he would appeal the district court's December 23, 2013 final order.[19] On February 14, the plaintiffs asked the Sixth Circuit to set an expedited schedule for briefing and argument, noting that the Ninth and Tenth Circuit's had done so in similar cases. The Sixth Circuit responded by speeding up briefing; and the state appellants filed their brief on April 10, 2014, with the case now restyled Obergefell v. Himes due to Ohio's new, interim health director being substituted as lead-named appellant. The answering brief from the appellee same-sex couples is due on May 13.[20][21]

Henry case[edit]

On February 10, 2014, in Henry v. Wymyslo, four same-sex couples legally married in other states sued in U.S District Court Southern District of Ohio seeking to force the state to list both parents on their children's birth certificates. The judge assigned to the case, Judge Timothy Black, is the same assigned to, Obergefell. Three of the couples were women living in Ohio, each anticipating the birth of a child later in 2014. The fourth was a male couple living in New York with their adopted son who was born in Ohio in 2013.[22]

While this lawsuit was pending, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to ask the court to declare Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Judge Black gave the state time to prepare its appeal of his decision by announcing on April 4 that he would issue an order on April 14 requiring Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.[23][24] Following the resignation of the lead defendant, Ohio's director of health, Ted Wymyslo, for reasons unrelated to the case, Lance Himes became interim director and the case was restyled Henry v. Himes.[25] On April 14, Black ruled that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions,[26] and on April 16 stayed enforcement of his ruling except for the birth certificates sought by the plaintiffs.[27]

Cowger v. United States[edit]

On February 18, 2014, two men married in Chautauqua, New York, in 2012, and fathers of an adopted daughter since 2006, filed suit against the Federal and Ohio State governments in U.S. district court. They sought family healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act.[28] On March 28, the plaintiff couple voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit after obtaining a family policy. Their attorney commented that the lawsuit may have helped to clear up the confusion they had encountered with the insurance marketplace.[29]

Public opinion[edit]

A September 2012 poll by the Washington Post indicated that 52 percent of Ohio residents surveyed said that gay marriage should be legal, while 37 percent said it should be illegal.[30]

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.[31]

An August 2013 Public Policy Polling survey of 551 Ohio voters found that 48 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage, 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.[32]

A February 2014 poll found that 50% of Ohio voters support same-sex marriage, while 44% opposed, and 5% didn't know or it wasn't applicable to them.[33] Another February 2014 poll, released two days later by Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 53% of Ohio residents support same-sex marriage, while 38% opposed, and 9% didn't know or refused to answer.[34]

Domestic partnership registries[edit]

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

Nine cities, village of Yellow Springs, and Cuyahoga County offer domestic partnership registries in Ohio. The first city to offer domestic partnerships was Cleveland Heights in 2003, which was passed by voter referendum.[35] Toledo began offering domestic partnerships in 2007.[36] In 2008, the Cleveland City Council created a domestic partner registry.[37] In 2011, the Athens City Council established a domestic partner registry.[38] In 2012, the Dayton City Commission,[39] the Cincinnati City Council, and the Columbus City Council approved ordinances creating domestic partnership registries.[40][41] Yellow Springs and Oberlin created domestic partnership registries in 2012, as did Cuyahoga County.[40][42][43]


Single homosexual individuals are permitted to adopt in Ohio.[44] 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 protections[edit]

Map of Ohio counties, cities, and villages that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation and gender identity solely in public employment
  Sexual orientation in public employment

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.[45] 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.[46]

Hate crime[edit]

Ohio's hate crime laws address violence based on race, color, religion or national origin, but not on sexual orientation or gender identity.[47]

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" because it was "sexual in nature and therefore indecent".[48] 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.[49][50]

Gender reassignment[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.[51]


  1. Temporary restraining order at Obergefell v. Kasich, 2013 WL 3814262 (S.D. Ohio 2013)
  2. Permanent injunction at Obergefell v. Wymyslo, 2013 WL 6726688, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 179550 (S.D. Ohio 2013)
  3. Declaratory judgment at Obergefell v.Wymyslo, 962 F. Supp. 2d 968 (S.D. Ohio 2013)

See also[edit]

Ohio portal
Thank You
Drawing-Gay flag.png
LGBT Wikipedians
Some content in this article from Wikipedia's WikiProject LGBT studies
The Wikipedia article is Ohio
Special thank you to participants of Wikipedia's WikiProject LGBT studies!

MAP Equality Map[edit]


LGBT organizations[edit]

LGBT community centers[edit]

LGBT events[edit]

LGBT youth organizations[edit]

Higher education LGBT resource offices[edit]

Anti-LGBT Industry[edit]


  1. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/12/23/1223-ohio-gay-marriage-ban-partial-overturn.html
  2. Eskridge, William N. (2008). Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003. NY: Viking Penguin. pp. 49, 50, 180. 
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  4. Weiss, Debra Cassens. "Ohio Domestic Violence Law Upheld". ABA Journal. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  5. "Cleveland Taxpayers v. Cleveland". Our Work. Lambda Legal. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  6. "Ohio could get chance to approve same-sex marriage". Cleveland.com. June 26, 2013. 
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  15. "Gay Ohio Couple Win Extension Recognizing Marriage". Edge Boston. August 13, 2013. 
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  20. Motion to Expedite, February 14, 2014, accessed February 20, 2014
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  33. http://www.quinnipiac.edu/images/polling/oh/oh02242014_k3s79f.pdf
  34. A Shifting Landscape
  35. "Domestic Partner Registration". City of Cleveland Heights, OH. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  36. http://www.ci.toledo.oh.us/ToledoCityCouncil/DomesticPartnerships/tabid/466/Default.aspx
  37. Northeast Ohio. "Blog.Cleveland.com". Blog.Cleveland.com. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
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  40. 40.0 40.1 Dayton, Cincinnati OK Measures For Domestic Partnerships - On Top Magazine | Gay news & entertainment. Ontopmag.com. May 18, 2012. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
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  43. Filed on (September 21, 2012). "Oberlin Council approves domestic partner registry - Chronicle-Telegram". Chronicle.northcoastnow.com. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
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  51. Levi, Jennifer L.; Monnin-Browder, Elizabeth E., eds. (2012). Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. pp. 59n58.