September 2, 2014

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Ohio man who challenged gay marriage ban dies

Jim Obergefell, right, and John Arthur after they returned from their wedding flight at Landmark Aviation at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport  on July 11, 2013. The couple were married during a short ceremony on the plane at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, after flying in from Cincinnati. (AP Photo/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gary Landers)

Jim Obergefell, right, and John Arthur were married on July 11, 2013, during a short ceremony on the plane at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, after flying in from Cincinnati. (AP Photo/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gary Landers)

CINCINNATI — John Arthur, who with his longtime partner helped lead a legal challenge to Ohio’s ban on gay marriage, died early Tuesday, his attorney and a funeral home director said. He was 48.

With Arthur terminally ill from Lou Gehrig’s disease, he and James Obergefell, 47, flew to Maryland in June to marry after more than 20 years together. They then then sued in federal court in Cincinnati for recognition of their marriage in Ohio so they could be buried next to each other in Arthur’s family plot, which only allows decedents and spouses.

“Their love is a model for all of us,” attorney Al Gerhardstein said, praising Arthur for fighting in his last days for the rights of all same-sex couples.

“Part of John’s legacy will be the difference he has already made in the struggle for marriage equality,” Gerhardstein said.

Funeral home director Robert Grunn, who recently joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff, said arrangements were pending.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Black found in favor of the couple and a second couple that joined the lawsuit. He wrote that they deserved to be treated with respect and that Ohio law historically has recognized out-of-state marriages as valid as long as they were legal where they took place, citing marriages between cousins and involving minors.

“How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriages as ones it will not recognize?” Black wrote in August. “The short answer is that Ohio cannot.”

The lawsuit has been expanded to have the out-of-state marriages of all gay couples in similar situations recognized on Ohio death certificates, despite the statewide ban. Black is expected to rule on that in December.

Critics of the lawsuit say it’s a backdoor approach to legalizing gay marriage in Ohio and that the cemetery where Obergefell and Arthur want to be buried next to each other likely would accommodate their request without litigation.

But the president of the cemetery where they want to be buried said he has to follow Ohio law.

Gary Freytag, president of Spring Grove Cemetery, said that in order for the couple to be buried next to each other, they either have to be listed on their death certificates as married or get written permission from all the living direct heirs of the family plot.

He pointed out that the problem likely won’t come to a head until Obergefell’s death, since Arthur’s family is the one who has a plot at Spring Grove.

“At that point, Ohio law may allow single-sex marriage,” he said.

The case has drawn attention in other states, including helping spark a similar but much broader lawsuit in Pennsylvania. Black’s decision also has irritated some conservative groups and lawmakers in Ohio, with one Republican state legislator calling for Congress to impeach him.

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    Hold onto your hats…

    I’m a 100% red-blooded HETEROsexual, gosh-darn hate Obama and all liberals, God-fearing conservative Republican; but I honestly can’t argue against same-sex marriage and all the benefits associated with being married. My position is made solely based on the U.S. Constitution and all its Amendments. It has most certainly evolved over the years and will probably continue to evolve until I no longer walk on this little pebble spinning through the universe.

    This is not to say I’m an advocate of homosexuality nor am I judging anyone, but I’m just not smart enough to understand why God sometimes does the things He does and I’m certainly in no position to question Him.

    C’mon people, we’re all equal!

    • reallyoldfarts

      If gay couples were predominately able to procreate and nurture the next generation of children as well as, or somewhat close to, a heterosexual couple, then I’d agree. Generally, of course, they can’t. Homosexual couples “bearing” children is an exception from the homosexual norm. Likewise, heterosexual bearing children is very common. The government and society have an obligation to support that one union that predominately provides for our next generation and allows it to thrive, as well as legislating that bond so it can be better equipped to do so. It is not wise for a government to provide the same marriage privileges to a union that generally doesn’t provide a procreation benefit to society. My two cents…

      • Larry Crnobrnja

        I’m with you, oldfart. I believe one of the most important functions of life is to extend the life of the species. But let me ask you this question, if a heterosexual couple decides NOT to procreate, should they be denied marriage benefits and treated as inferior?

        And would you please point out what part of the United States Constitution describes a different set of rights for same-sex couples?

        • reallyoldfarts

          If we lived in an ideal world, I would love to debate benefits for hetero couples who decide to not have kids. However, we don’t and therefore it would be have no value in the current topic.

          I’m disappointed that your second question is so rhetorical. You already know the answer. Doesn’t change anything.

          Still, I appreciate the polite discourse. I was afraid I was gonna be called a lot of names, be ridiculed, or worse- called “intolerant”. (or the moderator cleaned them before they got posted!) Thank you for your thoughts.

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            1. Not sure that ignoring the question satisfies the discussion.

            2. Of course I knew the answer before asking the question. But if you also knew it, how do you defend your position?

            3. I would rather people remember me as “Larry, that guy I pleasantly disagreed with” rather than “Larry, the d!ck”. I can assure you that no moderator scrubbed my words.

          • reallyoldfarts

            I’m merely ignoring a question whose propose may be to muddy the discussion. I also be glad to defend my answer to an honest question that isn’t intended to set a trap for me.

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            I don’t know how discussing the United States Constitution muddies a discussion regarding constitutional rights. You do realize that civil rights are a function of our laws, not of religious beliefs?

          • reallyoldfarts

            So now were discussing civil rights vs religious beliefs?! Oops! The path were are walking on is very dirty and it’s starting to rain! Time to find a better trail!

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            Oh, I see. You believe our laws should be dictated by your religious beliefs. Now I understand your confusion.

          • Joe Smith

            Larry, he must be a politician the way he avoids answering a question…hee hee

          • reallyoldfarts

            Low blow. I guess I will not remember you as a guy that I pleasantly disagree with.

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            I don’t feel it’s a low blow to point out the bible isn’t the driving force in our constitution.

      • Baltimatt

        Then why did you mention “nurture,” when there are plenty of homosexual couples who are nurturing children? What about all the heterosexual couples, married or not, who create children but don’t have the foggiest idea of how to nurture them?

    • stayfocused

      You mention God but not Jesus and many feel we can get to God without Jesus. What do you feel about JOHN 14:6?

      • Larry Crnobrnja

        Pretty sure the Constitution doesn’t quote John.

    • Baltimatt

      Thank you.

    • Joe Smith

      Not arguing with you, but where is marriage mentioned in the Constitution?

      • Larry Crnobrnja

        Many issues aren’t SPECIFICALLY mentioned in the Constitution, but I believe the 14th Amendment just about covers it.

        • Joe Smith

          I just read the 14th, I don’t see it but what the heck, if gays want to ruin their lives by getting married like hetros do then let them I say.

          Just wait until divorce is common with them and lets see if they still think its a good idea HA

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

  • kmzi

    Did he fellow die of aids?

    • Larry Crnobrnja

      I believe the article mentioned Lou Gehrig’s disease.

  • stargazer2012

    I too feel badly about this situation, but you can not change the definition of ‘marriage’. Equality in marriage between same-sex couples is unobtainable, it’s an illusion, because ‘marriage’ was never created or designed for same-sex people. Marriage is like an umbrella under which a family is created and nurtured by a mother and a father, a female and male. Gays have a legal commitment that the Courts have created and allowed to stand as law and that is a ‘Civil Union’ which allows for ALL of the legal benefits in being married such as insurance, pension, home ownership etc…. , it’s absolutely the same as a heterosexual marriage except in name. Marriage is a religious institution between a woman and a man, it can not be any other way. Gays can have a strappings of a magnificent wedding, but it will never be equal, ever…. because it was never meant to be between same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage is an illusion.

    • Larry Crnobrnja

      Traditionally speaking, you may be right. But other than being traditional, there is no purpose served by excluding gays from being “honored” with that word.

      Since you seem to be arguing from the same perspective as reallyoldfarts, I’ll ask you a similar question. If a man and woman decides they do NOT wish to have offspring, should they be denied the title of being “married”?

      And your argument about marriage being a religious institution is a straw man.

      • stargazer2012

        Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9

        • Larry Crnobrnja

          So you’re saying the laws governing citizens of the United States should be based on your religious belief, not our Constitution?

    • Baltimatt

      Civil unions exist in only a handful of states. More states have same-sex marriage than have civil unions. Since the US Supreme Court decision in June in the Windsor case, civil unions no longer provide all the benefits of marriage.

      Also, marriage does not have to be a religious institution.

      • reallyoldfarts

        You know, I’m not so sure that is precisely what was decided in US vs Windsor. The press dumbed-down the reporting of this decision so the average person could understand. Unfortunately, it also gave everyone the wrong impression as to what it now means for us. I can look it up for you if you would kindly reply?

        • Baltimatt

          The Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was unconstitutional. Thus, married same-sex couples could access federal benefits granted to couples who were married.

          The ruling did not address civil unions, and it appears that they are generally still not recognized as various federal agencies implement the decision.

          Also, in regards to stargazer’s earlier post, I want to stress that civil unions are not universal, so in many places same-sex couples have and cannot obtain, legal recognition of their relationships on a state and local level.

          • reallyoldfarts

            Yeah but I think it only applies to federal benefits only in those states that did not make gay marriage illegal. Still, I’m concerned about your previous statement that US vs Windsor said civil unions no longer provide all the benefits of marriage. I don’t think that was their decision. Guess I’ll have to look it up further.

          • Baltimatt

            It depends on the benefits. For federal income taxes, a legally-married same-sex couple can file as married regardless of whether their state recognizes the marriage. For Social Security, it appears that the place of residence, rather than the place of celebration of the marriage, determines marital status.

            If the federal government will not recognize civil unions, then the effect of the ruling means civil unions do not provide the same rights and benefits as marriage, even though the court did not directly rule that way.