Married in MD: OH Couple Fights for Dignity in Death
A federal judge in Ohio ruled Monday that state officials must respect the marriage of a Cincinnati couple, John Arthur and James Obergefell, who journeyed to Maryland to marry as Arthur nears the end of his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Ohio has a discriminatory constitutional amendment that excludes same-sex couples from marriage and bars them from attaining any other form of family status.
“There is insufficient evidence of a legitimate state interest to justify this singling out of same sex married couples given the severe and irreparable harm it imposes,” Judge Timothy Black wrote in his decision.
The couple’s dramatic journey to Maryland on July 11 required a medical transport plane to carry Arthur in his hospice bed, at a cost of more than ,000. In a brief, touching ceremony, they were married on the airport tarmac in Baltimore by Arthur’s aunt before returning to Ohio.
Cincinnati-based newspaperThe Enquirer reported:
They touched down in Baltimore at 10:39 a.m. The plane parked off the runway and the pilots stepped outside.
And then, in the cramped cabin of the jet, Obergefell seated next to Arthur’s stretcher, the couple turned to each other and held hands. Roberts sat behind them and began to speak.
“When I obtained ordination and license to marry people, I called my nephew John and told him I would go anywhere, anytime to officiate at his and Jim’s marriage,” she said. “He and Jim both said no. They were married to each other in their eyes, but that they would not take part in a wedding ceremony until the law of the land declared they were equal to other couples.”
“Twenty-six months ago John was diagnosed with ALS,” she continued. “Since then the amazing relationship between John and Jim has become even closer, even more devoted, even more loving – and it was pretty damn great before John became ill.”
Obergefell spoke, choking back tears. They exchanged rings. Roberts pronounced them husband and husband, and Obergefell leaned over to Arthur and kissed him.
“Let us all rejoice,” Roberts said, as she leaned forward to hug them both. “I love you very much.”
“That was beautiful,” Arthur responded, his voice thickened and slowed by his disease. “And thank you for including the word ‘damn.’ ”
“With John Arthur on his deathbed, he and his beloved, James Obergefell, literally had to charter a plane and fly to get married elsewhere on American soil because their home state of Ohio cruelly denies them the freedom to marry at home. No couple should be forced to leave home to make legal their love and commitment to each other, and as a federal court this week rightly affirmed, no couple should suffer the indignity of returning home only to be told, ‘Your marriage doesn’t matter here,'” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry.
Wolfson added, “Ohioans like John and James deserve respect for their love, commitment, and lawful marriage, and armed with the Supreme Court’s latest ruling and the power of stories like these that touch hearts and change minds, Freedom to Marry is committed to ending marriage discrimination in every state and winning marriage nationwide. Every day of denial is a day of massive unfairness and cruel hardship, and we know that Ohio – and America – can and must do better.”
Earlier this month, Freedom to Marry released “Roadmap to Victory – Finishing the Job,” mapping out the national plan for winning marriage nationwide in years, not decades. The plan follows the Freedom to Marry winning strategy that has led to the current progress and momentum, and calls for setting the stage for a successful return to the Supreme Court with a critical mass of states and public support. Through the Win More States Fund, which launched last year to raise, channel, and invest resources into key battleground states, Freedom to Marry has invested nearly million directly into states to date, invested more than million into priority states this calendar year alone, and seeks to raise and invest at least an additional million this year – with the full campaign expected to cost over 0 million before the Supreme Court brings the country to national resolution.