COLUMBUS — Today, the ACLU of Ohio filed an amicus brief on behalf of Equitas Health in City of Columbus v. State of Ohio, a case challenging the legality of Ohio’s Healthcare Denial Law, or the so-called ‘medical conscience clause.’ This amendment of the budget bill (H.B. 110), signed into law by Governor DeWine on June 30, 2021, allows medical providers, hospitals, and health insurance companies to refuse to provide or pay for a medical service if they believe doing so would violate their religious, ethical or moral beliefs or principles. Discrimination in healthcare has an especially severe impact on LGBTQ+ people and individuals living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
The amicus brief, filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, highlights how LGBTQ+ individuals, those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and other individuals in marginalized communities, are uniquely vulnerable in a healthcare setting. The mission of organizations like Equitas Health is to provide high quality, culturally competent healthcare and preventative services to its patients. Equitas Health seeks to declare the provision void and without legal effect for violating the single-subject rule of the Ohio Constitution, as it was not passed as a freestanding item subject to the usual scrutiny and public debate of legislation. The Ohio Constitution requires bills to be limited to a single subject to prevent the logrolling of unnatural provisions into a single bill.
“Our constitution’s single-subject rule serves an essential democratic purpose in placing concrete limits on the power of the General Assembly. This extremely broad and vague provision, snuck into an unrelated appropriations bill, is harmful to healthcare providers serving the LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities and effectively renders Equitas Health powerless to carry out its mission. Religious freedom is not a license to discriminate,” said Amy Gilbert, staff attorney for the ACLU of Ohio.
“At Equitas Health, it is our duty to stand up for our patients and communities when access to quality, affirming care is threatened,” said Robert Copeland (he, him, his), interim CEO and Chief Advancement Officer at Equitas Health. “By working with the ACLU of Ohio to file this amicus brief in support of the City of Columbus, we are stating loudly and unambiguously that this Healthcare Denial Law is damaging to patients all across our state and should be struck down.”
The ACLU of Ohio urges the Court to grant the City of Columbus’s Motion for Summary Judgment, finding the Healthcare Denial Law to be void and without legal effect.