Tri-State man at center of Supreme Court gay marriage case - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Tri-State man at center of Supreme Court gay marriage case

Jim Obgrefell (Photo: YouTube/HumanRightsCampaign) Jim Obgrefell (Photo: YouTube/HumanRightsCampaign)
WASHINGTON D.C. (FOX19) -

The nation's top court begins hearing arguments Tuesday in a historic case that began right here in the Tri-State and impacts the entire country.

Jim Obergefell, of Cincinnati, will climb the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in his fight for marriage equality.

Obergefell, a 48-year-old real estate agent, filed a restraining order in federal court asking that his name be placed as a surviving spouse on his husband's death certificate. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Justices will have to decide whether states can ban same-sex marriages and whether they have to recognize lawful marriages from other states.

Obergefell married John Arthur, his partner of two decades, after Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Under hospice care, travel was nearly impossible for Arthur and loved ones raised more than $13,000 to charter a medical flight to Baltimore where the couple could legally be married.

The plane landed for only a few minutes long enough to exchange vows and then headed back to Cincinnati.

"We simply wanted to marry. To make the commitment public and legal," Obergefell said.

Two days later their focus went from their marriage certificate to John's impending death certificate when an attorney pointed out something they had never considered.

"He said now guys do you realize that when John dies, Ohio is going to say he is single and the space for surviving spouse will be blank. Your name won't be there Jim," Obergefell said.

The couple had no idea, but their next step was filing a lawsuit to have John's death certificate reflect their marriage. John Arthur passed away three months later.

Their case has now been appealed to the highest court in the land. Justices will hear several other same sex marriage cases from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan. All of the cases are listed under Obergefell's since his was filed first.

Both sides are expected to argue for more than two hours whether states have the right to deny same-sex couples marriages before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justices won't issue their ruling June. In the meantime, 13 states continue to recognize marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

Obergefell is taking a public stance on the topic, saying he's fighting a legal battle that started as a love story.

"I put my trust in the constitution. It says I deserve the same rights. We all deserve the same rights," said Obergefell.

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