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Op-ed: The Lead Plaintiff in the National Marriage Case Waits for an Answer

Op-ed: The Lead Plaintiff in the National Marriage Case Waits for an Answer


Jim Obergefell's quest to call his partner -- who died in 2013 -- his husband has taken him to the steps of the Supreme Court numerous times. Obergefell tells us what he's learned along the way.

It's Monday, June 15, and I am in line at the Supreme Court on the first day the court will announce its decisions. I will be in line again Thursday and the following Monday and every day the Supreme Court releases decisions until I hear my name.

My husband, John, and I were together for more than 20 years. We traveled together, created a home for ourselves in Cincinnati, and when John was diagnosed with ALS, we fought it together. To be honest, we didn't consider marrying. Ohio banned same-sex marriage a decade ago, and if our marriage wasn't going to count in our home state, we didn't want a part of it.

But Edie Windsor changed all that for us, as did our knowledge that John's disease was advancing far faster than we could have expected. With the demise of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, we decided that the time was right for us to marry. Of course, that was far easier said than done, as the best state for us to wed in was Maryland, and John was far too ill to travel by car. So we turned to our friends to help charter a special medical plane, and we got married on an airport tarmac in Baltimore. We looked into each other's eyes, and I held John's hand as I promised to love, honor, and protect him for eternity.

That promise has carried me from courtroom to courtroom to the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States, because the state of Ohio still lacks marriage equality, making our marriage meaningless in the eyes of the law.

I promised John that I would love and protect him, and I promised him that I would fight for us. So I have battled the state of Ohio for the right to have my marriage recognized, joining with dozens of plaintiffs from across the country who are all demanding that loving, committed same-sex couples be granted the right to marry.

There is still a long road ahead in the fight for true and lasting equality for all LGBT Americans. Over the past few months, I've met lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans from across the country, and I've come to realize that for everything we went through, John and I were tremendously lucky. John and I were never kicked out of our homes. Our families didn't try to "fix" us. We never lost a job because of who we are. We never felt the need to hide our relationship out of fear. We could go to any business and be fully ourselves without concern. And for so many LGBT people, that is but a faraway dream. That's why I'm dedicated to fighting for nondiscrimination legislation at the federal level and for the rights and dignity of every single LGBT person in this country.

But I have a promise to keep. I promised John I would see this fight through to the end, and there's no other place I can imagine being when this decision is read. I owe it to John to be in that courtroom. So I'll be back at the Supreme Court every day rulings are released. I'll probably be wearing a bow tie, and I'll certainly be wearing John's and my wedding rings, fused together by a friend of ours. And I'll be waiting to hear my name -- for John, for the other plaintiffs, and for the millions of LGBT people in this country who have been waiting far too long for equality.

JIM OBERGEFELL is the lead plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, the federal challenge to several state bans on same-sex marriage, including Ohio's. Obergefell wants the state of Ohio to recognize his marriage to John Arthur, his partner of 21 years. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case this week or next.

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