Jim Obergefell, plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S., and co-author, with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Debbie Cenziper, of Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality (William Morrow), spoke at Trinity Cathedral on August 3 .
One year ago, on June 26, 2015, in a decision that drew headlines around the world, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional right of gay couples to marry in all 50 states after decades of incremental rulings. The historic case, Obergefell v Hodges, began with a simple wish: John Arthur, paralyzed by ALS, wanted to die a married man.
Jim and John had been together for nearly twenty years in 2013, when they flew from their home in Cincinnati to get married in Maryland, where it had recently become legal. The state of Ohio, however, refused to recognize same-sex marriages, which meant that John would be listed as “unmarried” on his death certificate, with no surviving spouse. Al Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati civil rights attorney with a long history of defending the gay community, took on their case, eventually bringing it and related cases through the federal court system up to the Supreme Court, which, in a historic decision, ruled in their favor.
Jim Obergefell was born in Sandusky, Ohio. He is a civil rights activist who embraced his newfound role after the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. He has worked with organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Ohio, and is the recipient of the Ohio Democratic Party’s Obergefell-Arthur Progressive Hero Award. Politico named Jim as one of its top 50 visionaries of 2015, and Foreign Policy named him one of its 2015 Global Thinkers.
Jim’s talk was co-sponsored by Appletree Books, the ACLU of Ohio, Trinity Cathedral, Equality Ohio, Plexus: Chamber of Commerce for the LGBT Community and Allies, the Case Western Reserve University LGBT Center, CWRU Lambda Law Students Association, and Cleveland-Marshall Allies.
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