The first recognized gay marriage in Ohio.

Good morning!  I’d like to start you off today with a happy story.  It centers around two men in Ohio, where I still live for another week, who love each other very much.

James Obergefell is now married to John Arthur, who has an advanced form of sclerosis that is expected to take his life shortly.  When the couple went to Baltimore to be married, they traveled on a plane especially equipped for Arthur’s illness.  They were married on the plane as it sat on the tarmac.

But, since Ohio will not recognize their Maryland marriage, Arthur’s death certificate would list him as unmarried and would not list Obergefell as a surviving spouse.  In addition, the couple wishes ultimately to be buried together as married partners, and that would not be allowed.

Ok, that’s happy, but with a tinge of sadness.  But here’s where the real happiness comes in: the two men filed a lawsuit and just yesterday a Cincinnati judge, citing United States v. Windsor (the SCOTUS case last month that struck down section 3 of DOMA) decided that if someone gets married in another state, just as if they had been issued a driver’s license in another state, that Ohio must recognize their union.

Although conceding that the Supreme Court’s ruling last month in United States v. Windsor did not directly involve state power to ban same-sex marriages, U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black declared that the Court’s ruling was pointing toward that issue.  He also applied some of the equality principles in the Windsor majority opinion to support his order.


In the Ohio case, Judge Black noted that the Windsor decision was “ostensibly limited to a finding that the federal government cannot refuse to recognize state laws authorizing same sex-marriage,” but then he added that “the issue whether states can refuse to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages is now surely headed to the fore.”

Along with his reliance upon that decision, the Cincinnati judge also pointed to earlier Supreme Court rulings in favor of equality for gays and lesbians, but not involving marriage, and said those precedents all worked against an Ohio state constitutional provision that recognizes marriage only for legal unions of a man and a woman, even if a couple living in Ohio has been legally married in a state that permits it.

James and John are going to be listed as wed when John dies, and they’re going to be buried side-by-side as husbands.  And their love has created a future where other men and women can do the same regardless of who disapproves and regardless of the size of their congregation.

What they want is what I want when Michaelyn and I reach our golden years.  Love is wanting to hold a person’s hand even after death, something pretty much everybody wants in life.  Ironically, the people who are greatly concerned with keeping the bodies of these men apart claim to do so out of love.  How…perverted.  Love is not doing everything in one’s power to deny a person what they would have for themselves.

Those who cannot see the beauty of James and John will shriek that we’ve defied god.  But if god cared for humankind even a fraction as much as James and John care for each other, then it wouldn’t be a concern.  The human race is in short supply of love like that (especially in its churches), and even if that bitter god existed I’d say that it’s worth it to defy him to protect the best of humanity.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Jonathan Tabb

    That’s absolutely awesome!

  • 23cal

    It isn’t that the religious and the conservative are unable to envision the consequences of their legislative homophobia, it is that they do not have the empathy and the humanity to care.

    • Silent Service

      Spot on.

  • Anne Orsi

    Watch the wedding ceremony here: If you don’t cry, you aren’t human.

  • Zinc Avenger

    A touch more happiness in the world. Good for them.

  • baal

    Kudos to the couple and this judge (who is going out on a limb, comity (between the states) isn’t related to federal law).

    • Feminerd

      It kind of is. The Full Faith and Credit clause in the US constitution says that a state must recognize contracts executed in one state as valid in the other state, so long as they were legally executed in the first state. It’s why I know my marriage will be recognized in all 50 states, even though we didn’t meet, say CA’s requirements for marriage (no blood test).

      • islandbrewer

        The interesting thing is that the DOMA section that says other states need not extend recognition to married same sex partners from other states, is specifically exempted from the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

        It’s interesting because in law-talking land, the US Constitution trumps federal statutes, which, you’d think that Congress, even way back in the 90s, would have realized (and probably did).

        I personally see this case as the first step in invalidating the remainder of DOMA.

        … And I don’t recall having to take a blood test to get married here in CA.

        • Feminerd

          Is CA not one of the states that requires blood tests? For some reason I thought it was. I know it’s a requirement in at least a few states …

          I know Section 2 is still considered valid, since it hasn’t been challenged successfully in court yet, but it’s pretty clearly unconstitutional on its face. It shouldn’t even be a question.

          • islandbrewer

            My wife may have taken my blood in my sleep.

      • baal

        That clause is legally very weak and as Islandbrewer points out, section 2 of DOMA is still valid. The FFaC cases have been very mixed on the issue of gay divorce so the focus on legal strategy has been 14th amendment equal protection claims.

        • Feminerd

          I know Section 2 is still considered valid, since it hasn’t been challenged successfully in court yet, but it’s pretty clearly unconstitutional on its face. It shouldn’t even be a question. Congress can’t pass laws and say the Constitution just doesn’t apply to this one, or at least they can’t legally do that, since clearly they did do it.

          I understand the strategic thinking, too, but it’s not really that weak on other contracts. If I sign a nondisclosure agreement in Rhode Island, I can’t move to Connecticut and claim it to be invalid, after all. There’s no state laws that specifically say CT will recognize contracts from other areas, because it’s assumed that the Full Faith and Credit clause already covers that.

  • Ryan Hite

    The march to equality gains traction by the day!

  • Silent Service

    I heard about this late last week. As a fellow Ohio resident these days I have to say that it is about damned time. The best part is that House Republicans are finally ending the fight due to how it will make them look both on social issues and on fiscal issues. How can they justify paying for a losing fight when they forced the government furlough on federal civilian employees?

  • Verimius

    Judge Black also noted that Ohio currently recognizes first-cousin marriages and minor marriages legally performed in other states, even though those are otherwise illegal in Ohio.