The Supreme Court of Ohio has upheld a law that people who carry HIV must inform their sexual partners before engaging in sexual conduct. The decision was issued Thursday in the appeal process of the case of Orlando Batista.
Batista was convicted of felonious assault after he did not inform his girlfriend in 2001 that he was positive for HIV before he engaged in sexual conduct with her. The court record states Batista tested positive for HIV while imprisoned, but his girlfriend only learned of it from the word of someone else.
Batista appealed the trial court’s felonious assault conviction but it was upheld in the First District Court of Appeals and he finally appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Batista argued the Ohio Revised Code, which stipulates the necessary HIV disclosure, violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. He contended the Ohio Revised Code violated speech because it compelled him to disclose the virus, and violated equal protection because the law makes people disclose HIV and not other diseases, like Hepatitis C.
In issuing the decision, Justice Terrence O’Donnell wrote the majority opinion and stated that the Ohio Revised Code regulates conduct, not speech.
Of the majority opinion, O’Donnell wrote, “[I]t is rationally related to the state’s legitimate interest in preventing the transmission of HIV to sexual partners who may not be aware of the risk and therefore does not violate the Equal Protection Clauses of either the United States or Ohio Constitutions.”
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