Jim Obergefell opens up about life, SCOTUS Fight and Ohio Race
Before going to the Supreme Court to take note of its judgment on the quality of marriage, Jim Oberfelfell – the man behind the decisive decision – saw a sign of his impending victory on his admission slip.
“Every time I was in the Supreme Court, the tickets were bright orange,” Obergefell explained in the latest episode of the Law&Crime podcast “Objections: With Adam Klasfeld.”
“Friday, June 26 – that day was not bright orange,” he continued. “It was lavender, and when we realized we all thought, ‘Well, that’s got to be a sign. It’s got to be a positive sign. There’s no reason the ticket changed from color, let alone lavender.”
In a lengthy interview, Obergefell goes beyond the cold case file to reflect on how he and her late husband Jean-Arthur began their legal battle over their marriage. He describes how he was ordained a marriage officer after his Supreme Court victory – and read the final lines of the decision that bears his name at ‘every’ ceremony.
Following the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe vs. WadeObergefell expressed the possibility of his own decision meeting a similar fate – and urged the Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Acta bill strengthening marriage equality that found bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.
“I hope Republican senators who haven’t decided or who think they will vote ‘no’: I’m just asking you to think of your own family,” Obergefell said. “Think about your marriage. Think about the marriages of the people you love, your family members, your friends. How can you think that voting no on something that means a marriage would disappear due to crossing a border is the right thing to do? It is harmful. It’s anti-family. It’s anti-American.
With Support for same-sex marriage having reached record highs, some GOP senators claimed to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act as unnecessary. The Dobbs majority — except for justice Clarence Thomasin an agreement – insisted that no other rights previously established by Supreme Court precedent were accordingly on the chopping block.
Oberfelfell did not buy it.
“The fact that in the Dobbs decision Judge Alito is saying that this decision should not be interpreted to mean or should not be applied to other rights, that does not give me any comfort, ”he said, noting that most judges of the majority appeared to testify at their confirmation hearings this deer was established law.
Thomas offered no such warning, arguing unreservedly that the court should reconsider Griswoldwho established the right to contraception; Lawrence, ensure the legality of same-sex intimacy; and of course, Oberefell.
“It was Judge Thomas making his personal beliefs very clear and what rights we currently enjoy that he thinks we don’t deserve or should be taken away from,” Obergefell said. “So I really believe it was personal.”
Obergefell describes this personal journey on the podcast, from deciding to get married after her late husband was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“At 14 months he started palliative care at home, and I was his main caregiver, except when the hospice nurses visited for a few hours a week,” Obergefell said. “That’s what you do when you love someone. I mean, you take care of them no matter what, and we had talked about marriage at the start of our relationship in the mid-90s. We talked about marriage because we wanted to get married, but we also all the two agreed that for us it couldn’t just be something symbolic. It had to be something legal. It had to be a marriage that carried legal weight.
Arthur didn’t live to see the day of their victory in the Supreme Court – but he survived long enough for their victory in the lower court, before the appeal battles that followed.
Obergefell described the moment when the then justice Anthony Kennedy recited the decision and the outfit became clear.
“When I realized that, yes, he was saying that we deserve the right to marry and that those marriages be recognized, I burst into tears,” Obergefell recalled. “And you could hear people around the courtroom sobbing. Our lawyer told me later that he had never seen so many lawyers cry in a courtroom.
“Of course, I thought, ‘John, I wish you were here. I wish you could experience this, I wish you knew that our marriage can never be erased,” Obergefell continued. “And then I was struck by the realization that for the first time in my life as a gay man, I felt like an equal American.”
Listen to the podcast below:
(Photo taken from the Zoom interview)
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