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
The First Amendment ensures that clergy of all faiths can perform marriage duties in a manner fitting with their beliefs––including refusing to solemnize same-sex marriages— without fear of government intrusion. Bills—such as the Pastor Protection Act and Religious Freedom Restoration Act—that open the door for discrimination against LGBTQ people under the guise of protecting religious liberty are unnecessary. LGBTQ rights, marriage equality, and religious liberty can all be protected. They are not mutually exclusive.
There is a lot of work to be done to make sure transgender people are not just visible but accepted, supported, and treated equally under the law. Visibility and legal protection are closely related; knowing a transgender person is a good indicator that an individual will support non-discrimination polices. Days like the International Transgender Day of Visibility are key to raising awareness about the discrimination transgender and gender-nonconforming people face. We must continue to amplify the voices and stories of transgender and gender-nonconforming communities to end the violence and discrimination they face.
From seeking employment, housing, or simply trying to use the bathroom, transgender and gender-nonconforming people are arguably the most vulnerable segment of the LGBT community. Ohio has no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, and we are one of just three states that does not allow transgender individuals to update the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their true identity. The ACLU believes that everyone has the right to be themselves and that people should not be discriminated against based on their gender identity.
Visit our Transgender Spotlight webpage which includes video stories of transgender Ohioans, as well as, information on criminal justice and healthcare issues, trans know your rights, and even a service directory.
Updated 10/24/2016: In January of 2016, the ACLU of Ohio urged the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee to remove laws criminalizing people living with HIV from our state’s criminal code [see below]. The Committee’s recently-released draft took positive steps towards this end – but it didn’t go far enough. Under the draft, transmitting HIV remains singled out and could be considered felony assault. There is no rational or medical reason to continue this stigma. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio has signed onto a letter from the Positive Justice Project, asking the Committee to end the criminalization of HIV completely.
Read Positive Justice Project’s October 2016 letter to the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee.
The ACLU of Ohio submitted comments to the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee urging them to end the criminalization of people living with HIV.
When these laws were enacted in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there was so much confusion about how the virus was transmitted, which lead to incredible fear and stigmatization. In 1995, a Texas inmate with HIV threatened prison guards and spat twice at them. He was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison. The Center for Disease Control indicates that HIV is not transmitted through saliva.
“The early days of the AIDS epidemic were terrifying,” wrote Adrienne Gavula, Regional Office Director for the ACLU of Ohio. “No one understood how this infection spread or what treatment worked. That fear of the unknown resulted in many bad laws being passed and bad policies being implemented. Thankfully, living with HIV today is much different than it was 30 years ago. However, the laws have not been changed to reflect medical advancements in our understanding and treatment of HIV.”
A 2003 study by Yale University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS indicated that these kinds of laws were ineffective in accomplishing perceived public health goals. Offenders were not deterred by the laws because, regardless of their HIV status, most cases already involved illegal activity, such as rape or assault. Public health goals do not justify the current system of prosecution and punishment.
“Because Ohio’s laws that criminalize HIV do not consider intent, risk of transmission, or even whether transmission actually occurred, and because the existence of such laws actually deters people from being tested, […] sections of the Ohio Revised Code should be updated to reflect modern best medical and public health practices and research. It is time that Ohio takes steps to reduce the spread of HIV rather than hinder efforts to combat the disease through outdated criminal laws.”
Criminalization only serves to extend the stigma already placed upon people living with HIV, it gives relatively long sentences (10-20 years) even when no infection has occurred, and it delays any testing and treatment that a person may receive because of the fear of being prosecuted.
Read the ACLU of Chio’s January 2016 letter to the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee.
From seeking employment, housing, or simply trying to use the bathroom, transgender and gender-nonconforming people are arguably the most vulnerable segment of the LGBT community. Ohio has no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, and we are one of just three states that does not allow transgender individuals to update the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their true identity. The ACLU of Ohio is fighting back against discrimination so that all people in Ohio are treated equally.
Listen to ACLU of Ohio General Counsel Susan Becker discuss transgender rights and bathroom laws on Sound of Ideas.
The ACLU believes that everyone has the right to be themselves and that people should not be discriminated against based on their gender identity. This one-pager provides an overview of some of the issues that transgender and gender non-conforming people face in everyday life, as well as information on legal document changes.
Citations and resources:
- The Williams Institute, How many adults identify as transgender in the United States? (June 2016) available http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/How-Many-Adults-Identify-as-Transgender-in-the-United-States.pdf.
- Human Rights Campaign, HRC National Survey of Likely Voters (2015) available at http://www.hrc.org/resources/hrc-national-survey-of-likely-voters.
- The Pew Research Center, A Survey of LGBT Americans: Attitudes, Experiences and Values in Changing Times (June 2013) available at http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/06/13/a-survey-of-lgbt-americans.
- The Williams Institute, Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults (Jan. 2014) available at http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/suicide-attempts-among-transgender-and-gender-non-conforming-adults/.
- Center for American Progress, Movement Advancement Project, Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People, iii (Feb. 2016) available at http://www.lgbtmap.org/file/lgbt-criminal-justice.pdf.
- National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Findings of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (2011) available at http://transohio.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ohio-Results-Injustice-at-Every-Turn.pdf.
- Ohio Rev. Code § 2717.01.
- Ohio Department of Public Safety, Declaration of Gender Change, available at http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/News/US/OhioBMVGenderChangeForm2009.pdf.
- U.S. Dept. of State Foreign Affairs, Manual Vol. 7, 7 FAM 1300 Appendix M, Gender Change, available at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/143160.pdf.
- Social Security Administration, RM 10212.200 Changing Numident Data for Reasons other than Name Change, available at https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0110212200.
In the earlier part of July 2015, the Boy Scouts of America Executive Committee recommended ending the blanket ban on gay adult participation. Just two weeks later, the Scouts’ National Executive Board ratified that, removing restrictions on troops choosing openly gay adult leaders and paid employees.
Since the 1980s, gay rights activists have asked the Boy Scouts to drop prejudicial restrictions on gay participants. In 2013, the barriers were dropped for gay youths. Now the ban against troops selecting gay adult scout leaders or employees has been dropped.
Because more than 70 percent of chartered Boy Scout units are sponsored by organized religious entities, the Board gave troops exemption from the July 27 decision because of religious beliefs. This compromise followed sharp concerns voiced by the Southern Baptist Convention, Roman Catholic Church, United Methodists, the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, among others as well.
On June 26, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued an order to facilitate the implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. The order instructs all courts dealing with domestic relations issues (marriage, divorce, adoption, etc.) to use gender-neutral terms, instead of “husband” and “wife,” or “father” and “mother,” in all court rules and forms. This order should help streamline the process of executing the historic decision by allowing the courts to continue using current rules and forms while new ones are prepared.
Counties Expected to Issue Licenses
Nearly all Ohio probate courts have indicated their readiness to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with the exception of Belmont, Darke, Highland, Morgan and Scioto counties. Please note that the Supreme Court of Ohio issued an order to lower courts to view family terms as gender neutral in an effort to streamline the implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision.
After years fighting, loving and committed same-sex couples across America now have the freedom to marry once and for all.
Today, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling, we will gather, along with hundreds of Ohioans, for a Decision Day celebration.
June 26, 2015 will be a day to remember. Join us—the ACLU of Ohio, Freedom to Marry, Human Rights Campaign, Equality Ohio, and Why Marriage Matters Ohio—in a city near you.
Decision Day Events
- COLUMBUS: Union Café; 782 North High Street, Columbus 43215; 6 p.m.
- COLUMBUS: First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ; 444 East Broad Street, Columbus 43215; 7 p.m.
- DAYTON: MJ’s on Jefferson; 20 North Jefferson Street, Dayton 45202; 5-7 p.m.
- CINCINNATI: Washington Park; 120 Elm Street, Cincinnati 45202; 6 p.m.
- TOLEDO: Legends Showclub; 117 N Erie Street, Toledo, OH 43604; 6 p.m.
- CLEVELAND: Luxe, 6605 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44102; 6 p.m.
Let’s come together as a state and a nation to affirm our freedom to marry.
Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America, recently made clear his position on the status of gay scout leaders. Gates made the announcement at the organization’s annual meeting advocating for the end of the ban on gay scout leaders in the organization. Gates did not call for an immediate change in policy, but did encourage councils to make their own decisions concerning scout leaders.
Gates assured the organization’s affiliates as a whole that they would not face revocation of their current charters if they chose not to enforce the ban on gay scout leaders.
This news comes on the heels of the recent controversy surrounding the expulsion of Brian Beffly, an Eagle Scout in Troop 192 in Central Ohio, on the basis of his sexual orientation. As the ACLU, Equality Ohio, and the Human Rights Campaign continue to #StandWithBrian, they all also “applaud this progress in the Boy Scouts of America, and call upon the local Simon Kenton Council to reinstate Eagle Scout Brian Peffly to his full position as assistant scoutmaster.”
An alarming 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Below are resources available to transgender people who may be experiencing crisis or seeking support.
The Trevor Project is a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13 to 24.
The Trevor Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386.
More resources can be found at The Trevor Project website.
Trans Lifeline is a volunteer hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people. This line is for transgender people experiencing a crisis, including people who may be struggling with their gender identity and are not sure that they are transgender. Volunteers also provides general support and referral to community resources.
Hours available on the Trans Lifeline website.
Heartland Trans* Wellness Group is dedicated to the development of physical, emotional, and social wellness resources for trans* populations and their related communities in the Midwestern United States of America.
Heartland Trans* Wellness Group will provide educational and organizational resources to support and facilitate the development of community lead initiatives aimed at trans community service and wellness through activism, advocacy, community-building, and education.
Learn more about the Heartland Trans* Wellness Group.
TransOhio serves the Ohio transgender and ally communities by providing services, education, support and advocacy which promotes and improves the health, safety and life experience of the Ohio transgender individual and community.
For more information about the TransOhio services, groups and events, please visit TransOhio online.
I Am: Trans People Speak is a project to raise awareness about the diversity that exists within transgender communities. It gives a voice to transgender individuals, as well as their families, friends, and allies.
Find stories of resilience at I Am: Trans People Speak.
Additional resources for transgender people, their parents and allies are available on the TransOhio blog.
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.