Terminally-Ill Man Who Fought Against Ohio Marriage Ban Alongside Husband Passes Away
Back in July, there were a flurry of exciting developments in Ohio's marriage equality battle thanks to one couple: John Arthur and James Obergefell. Unable to tie the knot in their home state even after the historic Supreme Court ruling of June, John, who had battled ALS, was approved for a medical flight to Maryland where he and James were recognized as equal citizens. Once they returned to Ohio, a federal judge ruled that Ohio must observe their marriage certificate.
Unfortunately, on Monday, John passed away.
John Arthur, who flew to Maryland in July to marry his longtime partner Jim Obergefell, touching off a legal battle to force the state of Ohio to recognize their marriage and those of other same-sex couples, died Tuesday at the age of 48.
Mr. Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2011, and his terminal illness played a prominent role in the couple’s decision to marry and in the ensuing legal battle. He and Obergefell had been a couple since 1992 but decided to marry after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision striking down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Mr. Arthur and Obergefell lived in Mount Washington and North Avondale before moving to Over-the-Rhine in 2008. They were active members of the community councils in each of their neighborhoods and were known for their large parties and many friends. They were also inveterate travelers, visiting nearly two dozen countries in their two decades together, and patrons of the arts both high and low. Mr. Arthur was proud of having seen the musical “Mamma Mia” 14 times in three countries.
Although he was bedridden in the last months of his life, the publicity from his court case gave him a link to the outside world as hundreds of people sent gifts, letters and cards of support. Known throughout his life for a sense of optimism and an equal sense of the absurd, Mr. Arthur saw both in the attention their story garnered. “It’s been a swell of anonymous support,” he said in August. “It’s truly the supporters who are seeking us out to congratulate us and acknowledge us and give us words of support and thanks.”
Our thoughts are with John's family.