WASHINGTON (WNEW/AP) — Today, the Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.
Gay and lesbian couples already could marry in 36 states and in D.C., but the court’s 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on gay marriage.
The case that the justices settled was Obergefell v. Hodges.
Jim Obergefell is a real estate salesman from Ohio. Richard A. Hodges is the director of the Ohio Department of Health.
In 2013, Obergefell and John Arthur were watching TV news about the Supreme Court striking down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law, the Defense of Marriage Act. Obergefell leaned over, kissed the man he had loved for more than two decades, and said, “Let’s get married.”
They knew they didn’t have much time. Arthur was in the final stages of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Ohio voters had banned same-sex marriage.
So within weeks, a medically equipped plane carried them to Maryland, where Arthur’s aunt waited to officiate. Arthur lay on a gurney as the couple exchanged their vows inside the plane, on the tarmac.
Less than four months later, Arthur died at age 48. Obergefell was listed on the death certificate as his surviving spouse; the couple had won a court order before Arthur’s death to make it so.
That victory was overturned by the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, which upheld the same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee as well.
“John and I started our fight for a simple reason,” Obergefell writes in a statement. “We wanted the State of Ohio to recognize our lawful Maryland marriage on John’s impending death certificate. We wanted respect and dignity for our 20-year relationship, and as he lay dying of ALS, John had the right to know his last official record as a person would be accurate. We wanted to live up to the promises we made to love, honor, and protect each other as a committed and lawfully married couple.”
After the ruling, “I can finally relax knowing that Ohio can never erase our marriage from John’s death certificate, and my husband can now truly rest in peace,” he writes.
Obergefell has been in D.C. awaiting the decision. After the ruling, he spoke to the crowd, and received a call of congratulations from President Barack Obama.
Obergefell also says he has gotten ordained online in preparation. He says he wanted to be able to offer to perform marriages for others as “a nod” to his own proposal to his partner immediately after the high court’s 2013 ruling.
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