Prizm News / August 20, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
Jim Obergefell and his late husband, John Arthur got married two weeks after Edie Windsor (right) won her 2013 case for federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Two years later, Obergefell’s fight to get Ohio to recognize his marriage resulted in nationwide marriage equality. (Photo courtesy of Jim Obergefell via Facebook; top photo by Emma Parker)

The support and Pride of LGBTQ Ohioans ‘was thanks enough’ for marriage equality fight, he says.


By Bob Vitale

Jim Obergefell, the Sandusky native and Cincinnati resident who fought for nationwide marriage equality even as he mourned his own husband, is one of six people to be enshrined this fall in the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame.


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The Ohio Civil Rights Commission announced this afternoon that inductees—Obergefell and others who made history and broke barriers for women and African Americans—will be honored at a ceremony in the Statehouse Atrium on Oct. 4.

Obergefell is the second Ohioan inducted into the state’s Civil Rights Hall of Fame for work specifically on behalf of LGBTQ people. Former Ohio State University law professor Rhonda Rivera, one of the early advocates for LGBTQ civil rights in Ohio, was inducted in 2010.

The 60 other members of the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame include Jesse Owens; Gloria Steinem; Toni Morrison; Larry Doby, the first black player in baseball’s American League; and the late Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes, the first black mayor of a major U.S. city.

“Growing up in Ohio, I never imagined my name would be known across the state, let alone the nation, for anything, especially not for something as important as civil rights,” Obergefell told Prizm today. “I remember the pride my fellow Ohioans felt that it was a someone from Ohio whose name, face and story had become synonymous with marriage equality, and that was thanks enough for my late husband John’s and my fight for equality. I’m honored that the Ohio Civil Rights Commission believes I’m worthy of this wonderful recognition, and I’m humbled to join the other honorees in the Hall of Fame.”

On July 11, 2013, Obergefell married his husband, John Arthur, inside a private medical jet parked on an airport tarmac in Baltimore. It was two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that had adopted marriage equality.

After learning that their marriage in Maryland would go unrecognized in Ohio, the couple sued the state Department of Health. Arthur was dying of ALS, and Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage meant Arthur would be listed as a single in state records once he died.

Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Republican nominee to replace Kasich in the Nov. 6 election, fought Obergefell all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Arthur died in October 2013.

In a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2015, that  the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.

“This is for you John,” Obergefell said outside the court building that morning, holding a photo of Arthur over his heart. “Our love is equal.”

This morning, Obergefell told Prizm: “I still have to remind myself every time I see or hear ‘Obergefell v. Hodges’ that I’m ‘the’ Obergefell because this entire experience seems surreal even after several years have passed.”

“The moments that bring it home are those personal interactions when people thank me, hug me, show me photographs, or explain what this decision means to them or someone they love,” he said.

The 10th Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Thursday, October 4, at 10 a.m. in the Statehouse Atrium. All members of the public are invited to attend the induction ceremony and the reception to be held in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda immediately following.

Other 2018 inductees are:

  • Dr. Errol Alexander of Sandusky, a civil-rights advocate who fought segregation in Ohio before reaching international prominence as a scholar and artist.
  • Dr. Joseph Carter Corbin (1833-1911), a Chillicothe native who founded the first college in Arkansas to graduate former slaves and their descendants.
  • Jo Ann Davidson of Reynoldsburg, the first female speaker of the House of Ohio Representatives.
  • Renee Powell of East Canton, one of the first black LPGA golfers and current owner of Clearview Golf Club, the first African American-owned golf club in the United States.
  • William Powell (1916-2009), the father of Renee Powell and the builder, owner and operator of Clearview Golf Club in East Canton.
Twitter: @Bob_Vitale


Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.