The Story Of John Arthur & Jim Obergefell

Chris Geidner has written a wonderful profile of the late John Arthur and his husband Jim Obergefell, whose marriage will take center stage at the Supreme Court next month. Geidner’s Buzzfeed piece begins:

The plane was only on the ground a matter of minutes. Just enough time for wedding vows and little else. Jim Obergefell and John Arthur had wanted to marry for a long time. In 2013, after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, they decided this was the time to do it — even though Arthur was very, very ill. He had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2011, a fatal neurological disease that paralyzes the body. He was confined to his bed.

The couple could not get married in their home state of Ohio. They could, however, get married in one of the handful of states that did allow same-sex couples to marry. So their wedding took place aboard a small, specially equipped medical plane with two pilots, a nurse, and Arthur’s aunt — she performed the ceremony.

“We landed at Baltimore, sat on the tarmac for a little bit, said ‘I do,’ and 10 minutes later were in the air on the way home,” Obergefell said. The marriage performed there on the tarmac of Baltimore-Washington International Airport has become iconic within the marriage equality movement and beyond, a testament to a couple’s commitment and to the absurd lengths the law required them to undertake for a simple ceremony.

Hit the link and read the full story.

  • Baltimatt

    Happy they could marry in Maryland, sad it had to be under those circumstances.

    • j.martindale

      I would call it heroic rather than sad. I find their fight to the Supreme Court inspiring.

    • Bj Lincoln

      I love it here! Maryland is awesome.

      • Baltimatt

        I’m up in Vermont right now but I’ll be home tonight.

        Edit–Made it home.

    • John P.

      I can’t read the story at the link. I would cry like a baby. I know of their story. I just can’t relive it.

  • Ninja0980

    Just another story in a long line of them about how beautiful loving couples in this country are treated like crap soley because of their gender and all the indignities that go with that.
    John and Jim’s last months should have been spent enjoying the time they had left together and looking back on the wonderful memories they shared.
    Instead, they had to charter a plane to Maryland just so they could be married on a tarmac.
    And now, instead of being able to grieve the loss of his husband, Jim has to fight so their relationship can be acknowledged.
    The only “good” thing is that this part of the fight will be over soon and Jim will not only be able to look back on the good times with John but know he helped other couples not have to go through this, just like Edie did with DOMA.

    • John P.

      That is why marriage equality is so important. Not all gay men/women will want to get married… that’s perfectly understandable. But those in long term relationships need the legal protection that it provides.

      • Ninja0980

        Indeed, and the people who need the legal protection the most aren’t the wealthy gays/lesbians.
        It’s the middle/lower class ones who can’t afford all the legal documents that won’t work in most cases anyway.

        • Bj Lincoln

          There are a lot of us out there. I is such a relief to know my wife will at least get my SS.

        • fuow

          We’re quite well off. The legal documents we had drafted back in the 1980s were binding and still ignored during an emergency.
          We sued, the courts ruled in our favor, but, as the hospital administrator put it (in court!): It didn’t matter that we knew they’d win here, what mattered was blocking the ‘roommate’ from having any influence then.
          christians are the most hate-driven people on earth.

          • I hope you walked away with a pretty penny from that hospital.

          • B Snow

            Were there any punitive damages? If ever a case called for them, yours sounds like it.

          • nice on-the-record animus

    • They both knew they were gonna make history.
      :’) this and the Idaho veterans’ wife are what I tell when people give that “i dont agree with that lifestyle” b.s. One spouse was DEAD. Dead people don’t HAVE lifestyles. Marriages aren’t “lifestyles”, theyre partnerships

    • fuow

      I do hope you’re right. I’m still very worried.

  • KnownDonorDad

    I’m curious – will the SCOTUS case be named after Obergefell, DeBoer, or someone else? I’m so used to citing things like Windsor or Bostic and I don’t know what to call this one.

    • Gustav2
    • USAToday put this forward: “Because of the order in which the court listed the four cases, it appears likely the combined case will be named Obergefell v. Hodges. Richard Hodges directs the Ohio Health Department.”

    • People4Humanity

      Which begs, what is the correct pronunciation of Obergefell?

      • It’s pronounced SIR!

      • delk

        Unfortunately not listed, but here is a chart of SCOTUS case pronunciations. BTW, my last name was the one that teachers stumbled on during the first role call of the school year, lol.

        • People4Humanity

          Thank you.

      • Chucktech

        Just a guess, but it may be 4 syllables: oh-BERG-eh-fell, maybe?

        • fuow

          Actually, the English should follow the German quite easily, here:
          Ober – gay – fell.
          Three syllables, not four.
          And the “ober” is just like ‘over’ but with a ‘b’, not a ‘v’.
          For all my native tongue’s faults, it’s not hard to pronounce.
          Who knows how it’ll come out in the end, though –

          • Chucktech

            “Ober – gay – fell.”

            Um, isn’t that 4 syllables? 😉

          • Gustav2

            The ober is said more together as one syllable…or with the two syllables ober accented. OBER gay fell.

        • People4Humanity

          I was thinking oh-BERJ-eh-fell.

          • fuow

            Sounds nicer than the real pronunciation, but in interviews, I’ve heard the German pronunciation used in Mr. Obergefell’s hearing and he let it stand, so I assume that it’s not been Anglicized.
            German isn’t pretty on the ears, but it’s one fuck of a lot easier to learn than English.

          • People4Humanity

            Thank you, fuow.
            ^up^vote^ is for your listening to the interviews.

          • I tried to learn German and failed on two points. No way was my tongue going to be ever able to roll an that danged “r”. Was terrifically lost and confused as to the gender of stuff. A chair is masculine, a door is neuter?

      • Lthomas320

        FWIW, audio pronunciations here

        • People4Humanity

          Thank you for this reference. There were 3 pronunciations on that name. I will find this a valuable tool; I bookmarked the URL.

      • TheManicMechanic

        “Triumph Despite Tragedy.”

    • Stogiebear turned out to be exactly right. Each case has a number, and the titular case has the lowest number. So itis indeed Obergefell

  • delk

    Even though I try to be a nice guy, I hope every single donator suffers, financial ruin, repeated and ‘deeply held’ personal loss, debilitating pain from health issues, and paralyzing fear.

    • B Snow

      221 individual donors. I don’t wish awful things on the people who gave $5 and $10. They’re already suffering from everything you mention above. But that group that gave over $1 million? Disgusting.

      That’s a great site, thanks for the link. It doesn’t look like NOM’s Maine work is on there, only “NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE MAINE PAC has given $1,150 to 2 different filers over 3 year” which I don’t think is the whole story….

      • delk

        Yeah, that was typed in anger. Thanks for reminding me of perspective. I was a Mr Cranky Pants this morning 🙂

        I find it a lot easier to give 5 dollars to somebody to help them than give it to somebody to hurt others.

        • B Snow

          Everyone has to rant now and then. 🙂 Actually, I was pleased to see how few individuals donated to that cause.

  • Bj Lincoln

    I’m from Ohio. I live just outside Baltimore now. I am ashamed of my state and the people who run it. Changing the law doesn’t mean the people will change. I moved to heaven when I left Ohio. The only thing that would make me visit is family. They know why. I can’t risk having something happen while we are on the road. I do not like loosing all my rights, responsibilities or benefits as a married couple. We are treated differently. Tolerated. “Do not put it on display”. You can get your ass kicked that way. No flags or stickers on the car. Vandalism is not uncommon. I had a crazy neighbor who I had never been introduced to. Any time she saw me on the front porch, she started screaming vile names at me. Horrible stuff right in front of children! We put up a privacy wall so I could sit on my own porch. Maryland is the exact opposite!

    • Ninja0980

      Given the antics of the South, I think people forget that other states are just as bad or worse in their complete and utter contempt of LGBT people.
      Ohio is one of those states and this ban is proof of that.

    • Chucktech

      Good god, how awful. I didn’t think Ohio was that bad, what part of Ohio were you from?

      • fuow

        You should see some parts of Nebraska. They have signs right at the border to Colorado: Sodomites have earned God’s wrath!
        At their fucking border!
        This country is seriously in need of learning compassion.

      • Bj Lincoln

        Canton, Ohio Home of the Football Hall of Fame.

        • Chucktech

          God, I remember Canton…

          Back when I was travelling the country doing glorified TV repair I had a customer in Canton. He was grousing about having to explain to his kid when a Viagra commercial came on TV what it was. Being in the fortunate position of never having to kiss my customer’s ass, I said, “So, you’re one of these people who want to dumb down TV and the Internet because you can’t explain life to your kid? Suppose I can benefit from Viagra, where am I supposed to learn about it? I don’t read the Journal of the AMA, how would I know about it?”

          I told him that all he has to do is tell his kid that Viagra is a special medicine to help daddies love mommies more, or something like that. No big deal!

    • RobynWatts


      • Bj Lincoln

        Thank you.

  • Rocco Gibraltar

    This story is heartbreaking and hits home, literally. While I have never met Jim or John, I live in the same city. I have friends who know Jim. And I know the attorney who represented them, Al Gerhardstein. He is a wonderful straight ally who decided to eschew the corporate legal field to use his time helping those who need it most.

    My husband and I have been together for 30 years. Like Jim and John, we met in college. We married in Massachusetts in 2006 and our home state of Ohio still refuses to recognize us.

    I look forward to that day in June when we receive the decision. I hope to be able to thank Mr. Obergefell personally.

    • Bj Lincoln

      30 years! I’m pretty sure we will win and the law will change. We are just coming up on 10.

    • Ninja0980

      I hope to be able to do the same with Edie one day.
      As for the hubby and I, we are coming up on 12 years soon, not bad considering how many of my “friends” told me he would have left me for a woman by now.

      • The hate bi guys encounter in the gay world is stunning. Let em be already! Bi guys do exist, they have every right to happiness as the next fella.

        I’m glad that you and the hubby are so happy and are nearly there on 12 wonderful fantastic years together. And those so-called friends, can take a number and wait for you to care about their stupid ideas.

        • Ninja0980

          I cut off ties with a few of them.
          Badmouthing my spouse the way they did was no better then my bigoted friend who thinks the bible should be the law of the land.

          • Good for you! People like that make my blood boil! grrrrrrr!
            sigh, I guess it is true, bigots and haters come in all varieties. Several of hubby’s friends told him to divorce me when I came out to him as a gay trans man, so I understand what you went thru.

    • So thats what the right means when they claim we are trying to redefine marriage! One that lasts longer than the calories consumed at the wedding.

      Congrats on 30 fabulous years together!

    • Hal Watts

      My husband and I (also over 30 years together) live in a state that does not recognize our out-of-state marriage. While we try not to travel to other idiotic red states that will not recognize our marriage, we are sometimes forced to got there because of business. We ALWAYS carry a copy of our medical power of attorney documents.

      We believe that during the last week of June (Pride Week), our LGBT community will win a massive victory at the Supreme Court, thanks to the sacrifices of people like Jim and John. We will remember to say a prayer of gratitude to our many LGBT brothers and sisters who fought (and died) to make the upcoming victory possible. Rest in peace, John, and to all of our other beloved LGBT dead.

    • fuzzybits

      If we can’t get to Cincinnati to thank him,I hope there will be a function up here in Columbus so he can be thanked. We married in Illinois last year after being together 31 years.

  • Ninja0980

    One more thing, if you want to see how stupid Sutton was in his ruling, simply look at some of the comments on the USA Today article that Stogiebear linked to.
    The comments talk about moral decline and a sin against God etc.
    Phil Burress, the FOF asshole for Ohio, has said Jim and John have no but themselves to blame for their legal problem due to their “lifestyle” and that they should have moved someplace else.
    Many of the legislators in OH,TN,MI and KY feel the same way.
    And when the marriage equality cases were being heard, the few time Judge Cook did speak up, she didn’t bother to hide tone in her voice that the plantiffs were wasting her time and that they should go away.
    There is NO reasoning with people like that, something Sutton knows but doesn’t give a damn about because of his belief that states can do whatever the hell they want and the citizens who suffer for that be damned.
    They are all utterly contemptible human beings and I hope karma visits them all big time.

    • KnownDonorDad

      In June, the laugh will be on them…living well is the best revenge.

  • Michael and Philip

    Heartbreaking story. I was with partner for 15 years before he died back in 1988. Even then he talked about us getting married. Our children are grown. I can only imagine what he would think about the marriage equality developments these days.

  • Octavio

    The plight of these gentlemen is simply tragic.

  • Eebadee-eebadee-thatsallfolks

    That’s Ohio. Can’t even be gay on your death certificate.

    I was born, raised and lived almost all my life there, but I doubt I will ever go back. Not that Arizona is some liberal haven, but Ohio has been at the absolute bottom for LGBT rights for over 10 years now. It drives me nuts when the Advocate or some other publication lists Columbus as some great place to live, or when people point to Columbus Pride as justification. What about the other 364 days of the year? The gay community in Columbus used to be great in the 80’s, but it has been getting more and more invisible ever since. Ohio is actually a horrible place for gays to live. LGBT folks in Tennessee and West Virginia actually have more rights than their counterparts in Ohio.

  • billbear1961

    I haven’t forgotten, nor will I EVER forget, the obscene hatefulness of the Ohio government’s persecution of this couple.

    This is what the haters are ALL about, these so-called “Christians,” persecuting the innocent, even beyond the grave!

    I find it inconceivable that, after all they’ve done to allow ME to spread all over the country, the Windsor Five would even consider allowing the flagrant injustice heaped upon this couple to continue!

    For true civilization, genuine democracy, to flourish–for it even to survive–there must be JUSTICE.

    EDIT: This Telemann concerto, in a minor key, is our “anniversary music.”

    CJ and I have been together for 28 years, married for 10, since ME was recognized nationwide in Canada in 2005.

    We first encountered this piece within a few weeks of meeting–it was among the first music–on the first audio tape–we ever purchased together as a couple.

    There is a melancholy urgency in the first movement that moves me to this day!

    It brings back a flood of memories.

  • Claude Jacques Bonhomme

    Your courage, passion and determination are admirable, Jim, in the face of adversity!

    • Eebadee-eebadee-thatsallfolks

      I love that quote as much as Leonard Nimoy’s last tweet, and that’s a lot.