Who Is John Arthur? He Is Instrumental In SCOTUS Ruling Same-Sex Marriage As A Constitutional Right
Everyone is all over the Internet on Friday celebrating the fact that the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage bans unconstitutional, thus guaranteeing every single American the right to get married, whether they are gay, straight, or anything in between. It's a huge, historic day, and I'm as overwhelmed as all of you by this incredible, long-awaited news. However, I want to make sure that, in the crush of elation, we don't let the names of the people who were instrumental in this decision slip through the cracks. And no, I'm not referring to the five Justices who made up the majority opinion, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, and Elena Kagan, I'm talking about someone whose name might be a little less familiar to you: John Arthur. So who is John Arthur, and why is he important?
Well, he's the late husband of Jim Obergefell, and he died in 2013 after a ravaging battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Arthur and Obergefell had been together for two decades, since 1993, but it was only a few months before Arthur's death that the couple decided to make their union official. But that isn't to say that they hadn't talked about getting married before, as Obergefell told NBC: "Marriage would come up over time, but we always wanted it to be more than symbolic. We wanted it to carry weight."
In short, they wanted a marriage — not a civil union, not a domestic partnership, a marriage, and one that conferred the same rights on them that it would a straight couple. So, on Jul. 11, 2013, shortly after SCOTUS had struck down the Defense of Marriage Act — which allowed states to refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriages enacted in other states — Obergefell and Arthur got married aboard a medical jet on the tarmac of the Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport. Arthur's condition had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer walk, and could barely speak, but the two were married. Mere months later, on Oct. 22, 2013, Arthur died in his home in Cincinnati, at age 48.
And here is where the long road to this SCOTUS victory begins, because Ohio had passed a same-sex marriage ban in 2004. Even though the repeal of DOMA had struck that down, Obergefell predicted that it might be difficult to have his name listed as a "surviving spouse" on Arthur's death certificate, so he filed a lawsuit asserting that right. A federal judge ruled in his favor, but Ohio appealed the decision and won. The case made its way all the way to the Supreme Court, where, on Friday, Obergefell won the right to have his marriage recognized on the death certificate of his husband, John Arthur.
It's insane that someone had to fight for a right like this in 2015, and tragic that Arthur didn't live to see this battle through, so let's all just please keep him and Obergefell in our hearts and minds as we celebrate, because we all owe them a great debt.