Editors' Note: On November 6, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled against the freedom to marry, reversing a lower court ruling in a federal case that declared it unconstitutional to deny the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Now, this couple is speaking out about why marriage matters in their state and nationwide, committed to continuing the fight.
In July 2013, a federal judge in Ohio ruled that state officials must respect the marriage of a Cincinnati couple, John Arthur and James Obergefell, who married in MD after 20 years together. John and James made the journey to Maryland to marry as John nears the end of his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They then sued their home state of Ohio, which has a discriminatory constitutional amendment that excludes same-sex couples from marriage and bars them from attaining any other form of family status. In his decision, Judge Timothy Black wrote, "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."
John and James' dramatic journey to Maryland on July 11 required a medical transport plane to carry John in his hospice bed, at a cost of more than $12,000. In a brief, touching ceremony, they were married on the airport tarmac in Baltimore by John's aunt before returning to Ohio. Watch full video from the ceremony:
Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson commented on the ruling. He said:
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. … 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.
Ohioans like John and James deserve respect for their love and commitment, and should be able to have their lawful marriage respected under the law in their home state. Armed with the Supreme Court’s latest ruling and the power of stories like these that touch hearts and change minds, Freedom to Marry will continue to work towards ending marriage discrimination in every state and winning marriage nationwide.
Learn more about the freedom to marry in Ohio here.