A dying gay man who got his dying wish to marry his partner is also breaking new ground in court. John Arthur married Jim Obergefell, his partner of 20 years, in Maryland earlier this month. Arthur, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and Obergefell flew from their home in Ohio on a medical transport plane just so the couple could be legally married. Now a federal court in Ohio is demanding the state recognize Obergefell as Arthur’s husband when the time comes to issue a death certificate.
“The end result here and now is that the local Ohio Registrar of death certificates is hereby ORDERED not to accept for recording a death certificate for John Arthur that does not record Mr. Arthur’s status at death as ‘married’ and James Obergefell as his ‘surviving spouse,’” Judge Timothy Black wrote in granting the couple a temporary restraining order Monday. Black said that Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage “likely violates the United States Constitution” and cited its “extreme emotional hardship on the couple.”
“Without a temporary restraining order, the official record of Mr. Arthur’s death, and the last official document recording his existence on earth, will incorrectly classify him as unmarried, despite his legal marriage to Mr. Obergefell,” Judge Black wrote in his strongly worded opinion. The judge also noted that unless the state recognizes the marriage, Obergefell would not be able to be buried next to Arthur because the cemetery plot restricts burial to family members.
A spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is the defendant in the case, declined to comment on it other than to say “the governor believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.” You’re all heart, governor.