The ACLU believes that individuals should not be discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity. To that end, the ACLU deploys legal, educational and legislative resources to fight for full legal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, whether in employment, schools, marriage or parenting.
What's Happening in Ohio
On November 14, 2014, the legal team of ACLU of Ohio, national ACLU, and private firm Gerhardstein & Branch asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Ohio’s same-sex marriage recognition cases Obergefell v. Hodges and Henry v. Hodges.
Previously, on November 6, 2014, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld bans on the freedom to marry in the four states it oversees—Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky. This was the first ruling in the country from a circuit court against marriage equality after the Supreme Court’s watershed 2013 Windsor ruling.
In all six of the cases before the Sixth Circuit, federal judges from the lower courts had ruled to overturn marriage bans and permit marriages to be recognized from other states.
This action follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on October 6, 2014 to not review the marriage equality cases that were before them. This unmistakably showed that the court is comfortable with marriage for same-sex couples because by refusing to review the cases, marriages were allowed to begin. There are now over 30 states with the freedom to marry.
On July 8, 2014, the national ACLU announced that it was ending its support for federal legislation that would expand protections for LGBT Americans against employment discrimination. The bill passed with ACLU support in the U.S. Senate in 2013. However, serious concerns remained about exemptions for religiously affiliated organizations including hospitals, nursing homes, and universities, contained within the legislation that allow for continued discrimination. The ACLU and other allied organizations worked to remove these exemptions, but ultimately had to withdraw support when they remained.
The bill now awaits action in the U.S. House of Representatives. The ACLU remains hopeful that the religious exemptions will be removed and that it can renew support for this important legislation.
The Ohio General Assembly has introduced two pieces of legislation, H.B. 163 and S.B. 125, which would end workplace and housing discrimination against LGBT Ohioans. There are currently no broad religious exemptions contained within the bills.
Judge Timothy Black has struck down Ohio’s ban on recognizing the marriages of LGBT couples who legally wed in another state. Black announced his decision over a week before he actually made it in order to give the state time to file an appeal, which they plan to do.
The decision came as part of Cincinnati attorney Al Gerhardstein’s 2014 lawsuit against the state. The suit seeks to have the names of both same-sex parents placed on a child’s Ohio birth certificate.
While this will by no means be the final court to weigh in on this question in Ohio, this announcement represents another step forward in the march toward full LGBT equality in Ohio.
Marriage equality is moving quickly in courts across the country. Federal judges in Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia recently ruled that those states’ bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. These cases are pending appeal or will be appealed to the circuit courts. A court in Kentucky has ruled that the state must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, but the decision did not address whether the state’s ban is unconstitutional. In Louisiana, four married couples plan to file a lawsuit challenging that state’s marriage ban and the ACLU also plans to take legal action in Missouri to achieve marriage equality.
In Ohio, a federal judge recently ruled that the state must recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. The state plans to appeal that case to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The lawyer representing the plaintiff in that case filed another lawsuit on February 10, 2014 on behalf of four married couples asking the same judge to rule that Ohio must put the names of both same-sex parents on a child’s birth certificate.
The ACLU of Ohio is committed to bringing full equality to every Ohioan in all aspects of life. That means marriage equality, but also employment and housing equality. We are a partner in the coalition for marriage equality, along with the national organization Freedom to Marry, Equality Ohio, and Human Rights Campaign. For more information, check out the Ohio initiative, Why Marriage Matters Ohio.
Do you wonder how your city ranks when it comes to LGBT equality? Take a look at Human Rights Campaign’s Municipality Equality Index for 2013, and find out. Each year, HRC does a detailed study of cities from coast to coast, and judges them on their laws, benefits, policies and services protecting and serving the LGBT community. You’ll find Ohio on page 50. Access the report here: http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/MEI_2013_report.pdf
Three cheers for Columbus, for their perfect score!
The ACLU of Ohio Foundation was proud to participate in the launch of Why Marriage Matters Ohio (WMMO), a marriage equality education campaign supporting the right for any loving, committed Ohio couple to marry. The Founders of WMMO (Equality Ohio Education Fund, Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Ohio), announced the formation of the coalition today, September 9th, 2013.
Read our press release announcing the Why Marriage Matters Ohio coalition.
“We are committed to bringing full equality to every Ohioan in all aspects of life. That means employment equality, housing equality, and marriage equality,” said ACLU Foundation of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “The Supreme Court’s DOMA decision sounded the call that these inequalities will no longer stand. Any couple who commits to marriage should receive the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities.”
Senator Sherrod Brown spoke at the Cleveland launch. “All Americans should able to marry the person they love, and they should be able celebrate that love in Ohio. Full rights should not vary by geographical lines. Why Marriage Matters Ohio will bring this issue of equal rights to the forefront,” he said.
A recent poll of voters in Ohio done by the Public Religion Research Institute shows support for marriage equality in a dead heat at 47% on both sides. Why Marriage Matters Ohio was created to bring marriage equality to the forefront.
The ACLU of Ohio Foundation’s participation in WMMO is part of a strategic, nationwide effort to secure LGBT equality. From the ACLU’s successful defeat of DOMA in the Supreme Court, to targeted litigation, to ending workplace and housing discrimination at the state and national levels, the ACLU is committed to relegating discrimination against gay and lesbian couples to the dustbin of history.
For more information on the ACLU’s nationwide efforts to end LGBT discrimination, visit https://www.aclu.org/out-freedom
For more information on Why Marriage Matters Ohio, visit www.WhyMarriageMattersOH.org
The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a huge step for equality. It is a victory for the ACLU, for the LGBT community, and for our entire country. But what does the decision mean to married same-sex couples, in practical terms? How will it affect their finances, their access to benefits, and hundreds of other questions that have meaning in their day-to-day lives?
The ACLU has answers. “After DOMA: What it Means For You” is a fact sheet series that details many of the ways federal agencies accord legal respect to married same-sex couples. The guide includes 14 factsheets on the following topics: Bankruptcy, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Federal Employee Benefits, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Immigration, Medicaid, Medicare, Military Spousal Benefits, Private Employment Benefits, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Taxes, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Veteran Spousal Benefits.
You can find the factsheets on the ACLU’s website here: https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/after-doma-what-it-means-you
There are more than 1,100 places in federal law where a protection or responsibility is based on marital status. The ruling striking down DOMA will not be effective until 25 days from the decision, but even when effective, federal agencies—large bureaucracies—may need and take some time to change forms, implement procedures, train personnel, and efficiently incorporate same-sex couples into the spousal-based system. Until same-sex couples can marry in every state in the nation, there will be uncertainty about the extent to which same-sex spouses will receive federal marital-based protections nationwide. For federal programs that assess marital status based on the law of a state that does not respect marriages of same-sex couples, those state laws will likely pose obstacles for legally married couples and surviving spouses in accessing federal protections and responsibilities.
The fact sheet series was produced together by: American Civil Liberties Union, Center for American Progress, Family Equality Council, Freedom to Marry, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and OutServe-SLDN.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 was a big day for the LGBT movement.
First, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down the core of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), ruling that it unconstitutionally discriminates against legally married same-sex couples by excluding them from the hundreds of federal benefits and responsibilities given to legally married couples of the opposite sex.
The ACLU argued this case, United States v. Windsor. on behalf of Edie Windsor, an 83-year-old widow whose committed relationship with her legal spouse Thea stretched across four decades. When Thea died, Edie was forced under DOMA to pay a large federal estate tax on the home and savings they had shared—taxes she would not have had to pay if Thea had been a man.
Next, SCOTUS struck down California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The high court dismissed the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, on the basis that the supporters of Proposition 8 lacked the legal standing to challenge an earlier court decision which declared it unconstitutional. As a result, the lower court decision is now the law of the land.
The path to full LGBT equality will be longer in Ohio and the many other states with discrimination written into their constitutions, but it is our sincere hope that these two Supreme Court decisions will mark the beginning of the end for government sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community.
Click here for more information on United States v. Windsor
Click here for more information on Hollingsworth v. Perry
The Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium made headlines across the nation when it denied a request from two Akron men, one an injured Iraq war veteran, to convert their individual memberships to a family membership after they were legally married in Washington, D.C.
The couple created an online petition, demanding that the natatorium allow same-sex couples to receive family memberships. In January, the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to Cuyahoga Falls officials, urging them to expand their definition of family.
The public outcry against the natatorium policy has been substantial. Over 5,000 people have signed the couple’s petition. Still the city has chosen to continue with their narrow definition of family, a decision one city council member called “discriminatory,” but not illegal.
Recent cases of bullying in Ohio and nationwide have shed new light on the challenges many students experience every day. In April 2011, the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to school superintendents around the state urging them to adopt proactive bullying policies that balance education and discipline.
In October, 2011 a Chillicothe-area freshman named Zach was assaulted by a fellow student in his high school classroom because of his sexual orientation. In the days following the attack, a video of the incident was posted online. Watch Zach tell his story on YouTube or below.
Zach’s experience has sparked national outrage and drawn even more attention to the issue of school bullying. The ACLU of Ohio has taken action to protect Zach and other students from future instances of bullying. Watch Zach’s story below.
In December 2011, the ACLU offered testimony to the Ohio Senate Education Committee showing support for new anti-bullying legislation. The ACLU also testified on the constitutional limits schools and the legislature face when addressing “cyber-bullying,” which often happens outside of school.
On February 2, 2012, Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 116, also known as the Jessica Logan Act, into law. The bill requires school staff to obtain training to prevent bullying, mandates that parents receive annual notification of school bullying policies and extends those anti-bullying to school buses.
The ACLU welcomes these long overdue changes, but calls for additional protections on the state and federal level, including enumeration of specific factors that place students in immediate need of protection from bullying, factors such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity. Only with these tools will schools be fully equipped to foster a positive learning environment for all young people.
Twenty-nine Ohio cities and counties now have anti-discrimination ordinances. Eleven of these fully protect individuals from discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition the State of Ohio protects its workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity.
The following Ohio cities and counties have an LGB or LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance that protects all individuals from discrimination: Akron*, Athens*, Bowling Green*, Canton, Cincinnati*, Cleveland*, Cleveland Heights, Columbus*, Dayton*, East Cleveland*, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Oberlin, Oxford*, Shaker Heights, Toledo*, and Yellow Springs*.
The following cities and counties have protections for city or county employees only: Cuyahoga County, Cuyahoga Falls, Franklin County, Gahanna, Hamilton, Hamilton County, Laura, Lima, Lucas County, Montgomery County, Summit County, and Wood County.
* Indicates that the ordinance provides full protections from discrimination in employment and housing based on gender identity and sexual orientation. More information about the protections offered in each area is available here.
In June 2011, Athens became the fourth city in Ohio — joining Toledo, Cleveland, and Cleveland Heights — to pass a domestic partner registry. While registries do not create any new legal rights, they can be an invaluable tool for unmarried same and opposite sex couples to access other services – such as employment benefits, child care, hospital visitation, and more.
Some states do not have full marriage equality, but allow civil unions, domestic partnerships, or other types of legal recognition. Unfortunately, Ohio is one of many states that have either state laws or constitutional provisions barring same-sex marriage or relationship recognition.
In November 2004, Ohio’s state constitution was amended by ballot Issue 1 to ban same sex marriage. Article 15, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution now says that the state shall not create or recognize relationships of unmarried adults that approximates marriage. In 2007, the Ohio Supreme Court narrowly interpreted the reach of Issue 1 in the case Ohio v. Carswell, allowing the state to continue enforcing domestic violence laws even if the couple was unmarried. Read the ACLU of Ohio press release and legal brief.