LGBTQ Legal Rights in Ohio: What You Need to Know

Doug Mann

Ohio does not have a statewide law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination. This means that a person can still be fired, denied housing, or refused service simply because of whom they love or how they identify. 

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Table of Contents
  1. Same-Sex Marriage
  2. Ohio LGBT Adoption
  3. Employment Law
  4. LGBT Health Care Protections
  5. Conversion Therapy
  6. Transgender Rights 
  7. Contact an Attorney

Nonetheless, as of January 4, 2021, 32 cities and 1 county in Ohio have passed local ordinances banning LGBTQ discrimination, either for sexual orientation or gender identity, in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

There are currently several programs open to us that support LGBTQ health and legal rights:

  • Equitas Health – Founded in Ohio, Equitas Health is a non-profit community health center and is one of the largest LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDs serving clinics in the U.S.
  • PFLAG – Provides support and education for LGBTQ+ families and the community at large.
  • Equality Ohio – is an organization focused on bringing equality to the LGBTQ community in Ohio.

Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage has been lawful in Ohio since 2015 thanks to the landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. Obergefell is a landmark civil rights case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.  

As a result, the following benefits are available to all married same-sex couples on the same basis as they are available to married different-sex couples:

  • All states recognize marriages performed in other states
  • Same-sex couples can file joint state tax returns
  • Employers must now offer same-sex couple spousal benefits
  • Couples have the same visitation and decision making rights as other couples
  • Now same-sex couples have the same rights upon the death of a partner
  • A right to divorce

Ohio LGBT Adoption

In Ohio, a married same-sex couple may petition for a joint adoption if the child is not birthed by either of the individuals. 

Similarly, a same-sex couple may apply to the court for a stepparent adoption. Stepparent adoption creates a relationship between the adopting stepparent and the child that is the same as if the child were born to the stepparent.

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For unmarried couples, both same-sex and heterosexual, the options for securing parental rights are more restricted. Joint adoption is not permitted. Stepparent adoption is also prohibited if the couple is not married. And second-parent adoption, which is adoption by a person who is not married to a legal parent of the child, is unavailable in Ohio courts. (Ohio must, however, recognize a second-parent adoption that is granted in another state.) The best option for protecting one’s parental rights if unmarried in Ohio is with a shared parenting plan that may be filed with the court. 

LGBTQ rights we still don’t have:

  • No Parental Leave Laws for Same-Sex Couples
  • Non-Discrimination Laws for Same-Sex Couples Looking to Adopt are nonexistent
  • No Non-Discrimination Laws for Foster Care

Employment Law

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark 6-3 decision affirming that the prohibition on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This decision resulted from three cases: Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, in which gay men were fired because of their sexual orientation, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, where a transgender woman was fired because of her gender identity. The Supreme Court combined these cases and issued a single opinion—Bostock v. Clayton County—in which it held that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.

LGBT Health Care Protections

The State of Ohio offers no legal protections against discrimination in health care and health insurance on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity

This has many practical negative effects on the LGBTQ community. A substantial body of research indicates that LGBTQ populations across the United States encounter significant barriers to health care.

Specifically, they have difficulty finding providers who are knowledgeable about their needs, encounter discrimination from insurers or providers, or delay or forego care because of concerns about how they will be treated. In the absence of federal legislation prohibiting healthcare discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT people are often left with little recourse when discrimination occurs. 

Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy has been a hot topic in the news, but we’ve seen little headway in the state of Ohio.

Currently, only about 15% of all LGBTQ+ are protected from conversion therapy in the state. This includes 7 cities in particular:

In Dayton, where our headquarters are located, there is a law to help minors from being exposed to the practice. The law states that a $200 fine is given for every day that conversion therapy is administered on a minor.

Transgender Rights 

Transgender people born in Ohio will soon be able to change the gender on their birth certificates. The Ohio Department of Health (“Department”) will not appeal a December 2020 court decision requiring the agency to accept requests from transgender people to reflect a gender different from the one assigned at birth. The Department is working on a process for people to request the change.

The judge ruled in December that because the state allows birth certificate alterations for other reasons – such as to add adoptive parents – the policy against honoring requests from transgender people was discriminatory.  

Contact an Attorney

Progress in the area of LGBTQ legal rights has been made, but much more needs to be achieved, particularly in Ohio. 

Dyer, Garofalo, Mann, & Schultz has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ+ rights since its founding. Supporting our community and extending legal protections for everyone has always been our mission.

However, it’s more than just something we say. 

Our family, our friends, and many of our employees make up a part of our local LGBT community. That’s why we as a firm have been working to support and foster our community. For instance, we sponsor PFlag, the Dayton Pride Parade, and are a part of Equality Ohio’s Legal Network.

Contact us if you believe you have been discriminated against because of your LGBTQ status, and we will represent you to the full extent of the law.

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