Dying Gay Man Gets Final Wish: To Marry His Partner Of 20 Years

crossroadsA gay man diagnosed with a terminal illness was able to marry his partner of over 20 years, but their journey down the aisle — or rather, the runway — sadly illustrates the struggles same-sex couples face in post-DOMA America.

Cincinnati couple Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, both 47, fell in “love at third sight” at a New Year’s Eve party in 1992. Though they exchanged rings seven months later, the two men never expected to legally wed. All that changed when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Jim and John decided to marry, out of love for each other but also out of necessity.

According to Cincinnati.com, John “is bedridden with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a progressive neurological disease that robs patients of their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe.” John was diagnosed with the incurable disease 26 months ago, which kills most patients within two to five years. His rapid decline added both urgency and complexity to their matrimonial plans:

Health insurance had been an ongoing issue for the couple, as some employers allowed them to share a policy and others didn’t. But insurance and other health-related matters suddenly took on added significance. Still reeling from the news, they had to prepare powers of attorney and other legal documents designed to circumvent the kinds of problems every unmarried couple fears.

They decided to sell their two-story condo and move to a single story, and they put the new place in Obergefell’s name alone to avoid any future probate problems. Obergefell’s employer has allowed him to work from home, but he has had no protection under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

Even with the fall of DOMA, there’s no guarantee that Jim and John would be entitled to all of the benefits of a federally-recognized marriage since some rights are dependent on where a couple lives. Still, they had met and had built their lives in Cincinnati. And it was too late to move now, not that they would’ve anyway for fear of losing their “social base.”

The couple considered marrying in several of the marriage equality states, before settling on Maryland because it required only one partner present to acquire the license.  John, however, would require a medical transport plane for the actual ceremony, as he had been unable to leave his home since March. As a patient of Crossroads Hospice, he was given the gift of a “perfect day” — a chance to fulfill a final wish — and they could provide certain services, but not the cost of renting the plane.

Luckily,  friends, family, co-workers — and even someone they’d met once in Ireland on a cruise — stepped in and donated towards the $12,700 cost of the trip. On Thursday, July 11, after an hour and 10 minute flight to Baltimore, Jim and John were wed in a 7 1/2 minute ceremony at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

John’s aunt, Paulette Roberts, married them. When she was ordained to perform weddings, Paulette called her nephew and told him, “I would go anywhere, anytime to officiate at his and Jim’s marriage.” They were only in Maryland for 56 minutes, but they returned to Cincinnati as husband and husband. What that will mean in Ohio is still up for debate, but for Jim and John it’s a cause of immense happiness in the limited time they have together.

“I’m overjoyed,” John said. “I’m very proud to be an American and be able to openly share my love for the record. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”

Grab a box of Kleenex and watch the video of John and Jim’s bittersweet nuptials below:

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  • sfbeast

    I started crying almost immediately as soon as it started. Congratulations to the two of them. And their aunt who married them is a delight.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    Equality from Coast to Coast. Jim and John should not have to rely on fund raising, disrupt their lives, fly to another state, and worry if their marital status will not be recognized in their home state. This story worked me over. All of the people in their lives, including the hospice staff, sound beautiful. You two are beautiful.

  • Raquel Santiago

    Holy crap, talk about a tear jerker. Ohio needs to do what is right, however, having been born in that state and having to leave it at an early age i doubt its going to happen anytime soon.

  • Shadeaux

    OH GOD! That was too much! That has to be the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.

  • LubbockGayMale

    Their marriage is a wonderful act of committment, and a shameful comment on our society. I hope they can remain together forever!

  • Skywalker001

    It just so sad, I start crying. God bless him. Why we have to go throw this unfair situations when gay couples have to struggle even sell properties, values to get the thing we need when it should be equality among all of us regardless of anybody sex preferences. This need to stop now. Equal rights to everybody, NOW!


    How beautiful. As a gay man (about their age) who lives in Cincinnati, it’s amazing to me that I’m just hearing about these two on Queerty. May God Bless them and make their remaining time together AS HUSBANDS as joyous and reaffirming as their unwavering love and respect for one another. Maybe one of these days, Ohio will get its equality act together and future same-sex couples won’t have to go through what these two did just to be validated in the eyes of the law. Wishing them much happiness and strength… ;)

  • marco43

    Great story. One more step forward for the USA, (a Third World Country in equal rights for ALL citizens). So sad that there is so much prejudice in such an advanced country where EVERYONE inspires to go.

  • Dakotahgeo

    Wow! WOW! WOW!!! Heartiest congratulations to the happy husband and husband!!! Hopefully many months an years together!
    Dakotahgeo, M.Div. Pastor/Chaplain

  • Tim

    Congratulations to Jim and John – this was so very touching and I am so happy they were finally able to marry each other. Eventually every state will voluntarily or forcibly recognize what should be legal for all of us now.

  • loua61

    God bless them both, I hope they are together 30 years plus. I cried watching the video. May their love give them strength for whatever challenges they face.

  • Kangol

    Bless them and I’m so happy for them!

  • Pup

    @sfbeast: I was fine until they said they wished the decision had been a year earlier. The look on Jim’s face just broke my heart

  • bearfuzzlover

    Why is it that some authorities put same-sex couples through so much pain and distress, and get a kick out of knocking gay people down even further, when the last thing they need is someone putting on even more pressure, when what they need is support and understanding. Nothing more and nothing less.
    Neither John nor Jim were asking for the moon. They were asking for equality – something straight people take for granted.
    What time they do have left in each other’s company should be filled with everything they want it to be. Time is not on John’s side, but in a world or terrible news, this is one event that make’s one proud of their achievement despite all the hoops they were put through, and may they ejoy such time that they do have to be quality time. I’m not American, but proud to call them “My Brothers” and send them my Best Wishes Across the Pond for their future happiness!

  • WBrianG

    Hey Aunt Paulette !

    If you’re out there reading these comments, or Jim, could you contact me. I need to find out HOW to actually marry individuals by getting a license. I am already an ordained pastor, but not of a denomination that allows gay clergy. Its complicated to explain here.

    To John and Jim, my every prayer and best wish to you both. I couldn’t stop crying through the whole thing. God help you both ! stay strong ! you are both now another example of what Love is truly about.

    Congratulations !

    Brian in Springfield, MA

  • bskeete

    Congratulations. God bless them. Love is Love!!!

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