Ohio Right to Life Court Victory Upholds Free Speech

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           CONTACT:  Mike Gonidakis
DATE: September 15, 2010                            PHONE:    (614) 547-0099 x – 301


(COLUMBUS, OHIO) – The Ohio Right to Life Society praised the approval of a consent decree today by Federal District Judge George C. Smith that upholds the Society’s and other groups’ first amendment right of free speech.

Ohio Right to Life originally filed suit against the Ohio Elections Commission and the Ohio Secretary of State in 2008. In this consent decree, the parties and the court agree that Ohio’s restrictions on communications supporting or opposing candidates, paid for by corporations or by labor organizations, are unconstitutional insofar as they relate to independent advocacy (that is, advocacy that is not authorized by or coordinated with any candidate).

As a result, corporations, including ORTL, are now free to use the treasury funds to issue communications supporting candidates not only internally but publically using all types of media.

“This consent decree does not authorize direct contributions to or coordination with candidates,” said Executive Director Mike Gonidakis. “It simply protects the free speech rights of corporations, labor organizations, and advocacy groups, like everyone else, to tell people the candidates they support and why,” Gonidakis said.

Ohio Right to Life, represented by attorneys from Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, & Aronoff and the Center for Competitive Politics, argued that the Ohio statutes barring it from making independent expenditures was in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case decided earlier this year.

Earlier in the litigation, Judge Smith had ruled that a state law that would have prohibited non-profit advocacy groups from airing advertisements mentioning the name of a political candidate within 30 days of an election was unconstitutional.

“Our mission is to protect life in Ohio 365 days a year. Like any advocacy organization, we have an obligation to talk about our beliefs when the public is choosing those who will have the power to make crucial decisions on whether to protect innocent human life,” Gonidakis said.

To view a copy of the consent decree, click HERE.


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