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Jim Obergefell, Marriage Equality Plaintiff, Runs for Ohio House

Jim Obergefell

"I don't mind being the underdog, and I'm not afraid to take on any issue when it's the right thing to do," Obergefell says in a Twitter video.

Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the case that brought marriage equality to the nation, is running for the Ohio House of Representatives.

Obergefell, a Democrat, announced his candidacy in a Twitter video Tuesday morning. He is running in District 89, centered on Erie and Ottawa counties in northern Ohio, which includes Sandusky, where he grew up.

"I don't mind being the underdog, and I'm not afraid to take on any issue when it's the right thing to do," Obergefell says in the video. His priorities, he says, include fighting for good jobs in the region, for quality health care for all, for strong public education, and "a clean and healthy Lake Erie."

Obergefell, who has been a teacher and real estate agent, became a marriage equality activist when his longtime partner, John Arthur, was in the last stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease. Ohio barred same-sex couples from marrying, so Obergefell and Arthur married on an airport tarmac in 2013 in Maryland, which allowed same-sex unions. Arthur died three months later, and Ohio would not recognize the marriage even on his death certificate.

Obergefell sued, and his case, consolidated with others from Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee, resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which struck down all remaining state laws against same-sex marriage.

"It wasn't just about John and our marriage," he told The Cincinnati Enquirer after announcing his candidacy. "It was about our ability to fully participate in society, and that's what I want for the people of this district and everyone across Ohio. I want everyone to have the ability to fully participate in society and in the economy."

He has continued his activism for LGBTQ+ equality since then. He spoke out against Donald Trump's anti-equality Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, and he owns a wine label that generates revenue for nonprofit organizations. If he is elected state representative, he has vowed to work for the Ohio Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Obergefell has lived in Cincinnati and Columbus as well as Washington, D.C., but last year he moved back to Sandusky to be closer to family. While many of his family members are still there, some have had to leave because the area lacked job opportunities, and he wants to improve those opportunities in the region, he notes in the video.

District 89 is currently represented by a Republican, D.J. Swearingen, who has been in office since 2019. Obergefell would be just the second out member of the Ohio legislature, the first being Nickie Antonio, a Democrat who has been a state senator since 2019 and was a representative for eight years before that.

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