~~April 28, 2015~~
Lonely Ohio widower takes lead in landmark gay marriage case
Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
Jim Obergefell and John Arthur spent more than two decades living quietly together. They were never gay rights activists.
“John and I always joked that we were bad gays,” Obergefell recalls, “because the vast majority of our friends are straight couples.”
But when the Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2013, that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages, two activists were born — one of whom now stands at the threshold of legal history.
Fifteen days after the high court’s ruling — with Arthur in the final stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease — the couple flew to Maryland on a medically equipped jet to be legally married on the tarmac. Then they flew home and learned their marriage would not be recognized in Ohio.
“All I thought was, ‘This isn’t right. I’m p—ed off,’ ” Obergefell, 48, says now, sitting in the silence of his art-filled Cincinnati condominium.
So with little to gain but respect — the couple had protected their assets and finances because of Arthur’s imminent death — they filed a lawsuit seeking to have their marriage recognized. Within 72 hours, they won a temporary injunction.
Three months later, Arthur was gone at age 48.
But his determination to have Obergefell named as the surviving spouse on his death certificate remains. And on April 28, the couple will have their day in court — the Supreme Court.
The case is called Obergefell v. Hodges — Richard Hodges directs the Ohio Department of Health — but it’s a combination of six lawsuits filed by 32 couples, widowers and children in four states. Obergefell’s lawsuit drew the lowest case number, putting his name ahead of the others from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Thus has Jim Obergefell , mild-mannered real estate broker and art collector, become the poster child for the gay rights movement’s nationwide effort to legalize same-sex marriage.
Since the justices agreed in January to consider the case, his life has become a whirlwind of media interviews and speaking engagements — Dallas and Washington last month, Houston this weekend, Atlanta in May, Columbus in June. Vice President Joe Biden embraced him. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., told Obergefell’s story on the Senate floor this month while the Cincinnati resident got to watch from the Senate gallery.
“I look at this as a way for me to honor John and to still protect John,” Obergefell says. “It keeps him, it keeps our marriage, our relationship, alive.”
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~Love Can’t Wait~
~~Published on Apr 13, 2015~~
Obergefell, the named plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges and longtime HRC member, married his partner John, who was suffering from ALS, on a medical jet in Maryland in 2013.
Obergefell and Arthur, both Ohio residents, filed a case in July 2013, seeking recognition of their Maryland marriage on Arthur’s death certificate.
Arthur died three months later on October 22, 2013. Since then, Obergefell’s case has made its way through the courts and will be heard by the Supreme Court on April 28.
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