Husbands Jim Obergefell and John Arthur changed the landscape of same-sex civil rights in the United States.
Married only days when their legal battle began, Jim and John had been in love for more than two decades. They had not given much consideration to marrying, as their home state of Ohio did not allow it. John was facing a terminal ALS diagnosis, though, and, after the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision that it was unconstitutional to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples, they thought perhaps their relationship could be recognized.
They flew to Maryland and were married on the tarmac in the medical plane required for John to make the trip. But Cincinnati is where John would die, and Ohio did not recognize same-sex marriages. He would be listed as “single” on his death certificate. It was this denial of their relationship that impelled the couple’s legal action.
The case that began as a temporary order regarding John’s Ohio death certificate grew to the consolidated federal case bearing Jim’s name: Obergefell v. Hodges. In June of 2015, a year and a half after John died, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy delivered the opinion that guaranteed the right to marry to same-sex couples.
The Court determined that states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and they must recognize marriages performed in other jurisdictions. The legal record of Jim and John’s marriage was secure, and the effect was far more than they ever imagined. They’d won gay marriage across the United States.
The New College Gender Studies Program invites you to spend the evening with Mr. Obergefell at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Mildred Sainer Pavilion, 5313 Bay Shore Road. As part of the New Topics New College series, he will share his compelling story of love, loss and legal recognition in a free talk, open to the public.
To hear first-hand how this historic moment in civil rights history came to happen, and get to know the people who inspired and worked to accomplish it, RSVP at http://donate.ncf.edu/
Additionally, Jim has graciously agreed to combine his talk with a cocktail reception benefitting the New College Gender Studies Program’s LGBTQ+ programming. Premier caterer Innovative Dining will provide hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, and Jim will sign copies of his book Love Wins (one book per couple is included). A limited number of tickets are available for $125 at http://donate.ncf.edu/. Those who purchase reception tickets do not need to register for the talk separately.
While the Obergefell decision signifies the progress that has been made toward equality for sexual and gender minorities in recent years, much work remains. At New College, the Gender Studies Program is committed to providing programming that addresses the broad range of issues that face the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) communities.
We offer an academic program that includes courses from literature to biology to anthropology, and we sponsor a range of events open to our campus and local communities. We encourage students to explore gender and sexuality as social and cultural concepts that have real impacts on their selves, and to translate their knowledge into practices that improve the lives of marginalized groups. As such, we work closely with community organizations and require our students to complete internships related to their courses.
We also host nationally-known lecturers, bring field-leading guest instructors for our January term student projects, and hold weekly informal conversations on current topics. Your support makes these events possible, and, in so doing, helps us provide a welcoming space for LGBTQ+ students and contribute to a broader sense of inclusion on campus where all students feel valued.
Dr. Emily Fairchild is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Gender Studies Program at New College of Florida.