A Dying Gay Man’s Wedding Could Have A Big Impact On Marriage Law

John Arthur may be dying, but the legacy he is leaving behind with his husband Jim Obergefell will be felt in the law for years.

Arthur, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, married Obergefell, his partner of 20 years, in a ceremony on a runway in Maryland, where they had traveled on a medical flight. Upon return, the couple sought to have their marriage recognized in Ohio so that it would be included on John’s death certificate. In a strongly worded opinion, Federal Judge Timothy Black issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the state from not recognizing the marriage.

Now Black has extended that restraining order until the end of the year, protecting Jim and John’s marriage in the interim. He also scheduled arguments for the case for December 18. The case has the potential to be a major blow to the state’s ban on marriage equality. In his original ruling, Black signaled that the law “likely violates the U.S. Constitution” and noted that Ohio doesn’t have a problem recognizing any other type of marriage performed elsewhere in the country.

The case that Jim and John have set in motion has the potential to answer a key question about the DOMA ruling: do states have the right to pick and choose which marriages it recognizes. Black has said the answer is probably no.

“This is not a complicated case,” Black wrote in his first opinion. “The issue is whether the State of Ohio can discriminate against same sex marriages lawfully solemnized out of state, when Ohio law has historically and unambiguously provided that the validity of a marriage is determined by whether it complies with the law of the jurisdiction where it was celebrated.”

Ohio may still ban marriage equality within its borders. But it doesn’t look like it will be able to void marriages that took place elsewhere. If that’s the federal ruling, it will have implications in the other 36 states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages. And for that, we would have John Arthur and Jim Obergefell to thank.

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  • Spike

    And now we see why the mormons and catholic church were so desperate to stop marriage equality in in Calif., clearly they thought if they stopped it in Calif., other states would not move in the same direction, serious miscalculation, and now we are seeing how it was the DOMA ruling that will undo religions death grip on marriage equality.

  • erasure25

    I don’t doubt that some backwards politicians will go so far as to introduce laws in their own states to not recognize any marriage not performed in their borders to keep out the gays.

  • Charli Girl

    I was so excited that week,I didn’t even think of that…you are right on!!!

  • Charli Girl

    @Charli Girl:
    Nah,they won’t do that to “themselves” They want us isolated in the worst way,but NOT HAPPENING !!

  • Cyn

    @Spike: The LA Times reports the California Supreme Court refused to revive Prop 8, ending the last remaining legal challenge to same sex marriage in that state.

    Good news.

  • gaym50ish

    Before DOMA, the federal government had no role whatsoever in defining marriage. Never mind that 14-year-olds in years past could marry in some states but not in others, or that some states, but not others, recognized common-law marriages. Even today, while most states require one to be 18 years old to marry without parental consent, in Georgia a girl can marry at 15 without parental approval if she is pregnant.

    The couples united under the various state laws are recognized as being married in every other state in the union. Even foreign marriages and marriages on international waters are recognized. The single exception is same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court should have ruled on this inequity along with the DOMA ruling, because the issue will probably end up there anyway.

  • samuel1chandel

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  • Daniel-Reader

    Two brave and noble knights championing love, justice, and equality – well done.

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