Jim Obergefell, Lead Plaintiff in SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Ruling, to Be Honored by Equality Florida

Jim Obergefell
Jim Obergefell
Courtesy of Equality Florida

Equality Florida has announced that Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in the United States, will be the recipient of the group's 2015 Voice for Equality Award.

The award will be given to Obergefell at Equality Florida's annual Broward Gala on November 15 at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale.

Obergefell married his partner, John Arthur, in 2013 in Ohio. Two weeks before that, the Supreme Court struck down key parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. But because Ohio didn't recognize same-sex marriage, Jim and John were forced to travel to a state that did recognize it, even as John was suffering through the late stages of Lou Gehrig's disease. Through generous donations, the couple was able to board a medical jet to Baltimore-Washington Marshall International Airport, where they were married. 

John passed away three months later. Jim, meanwhile, had to fight Ohio law to get himself listed as surviving spouse on John's death certificate. A lower court ruled in Jim's favor, but the state filed an appeal, and a federal appeals court became the first in the nation not to rule in favor of marriage for same-sex couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court then took up the case, in addition to other cases from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan. SCOTUS ruled in Jim's favor, thus marking a historical day. 

Justice Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion:

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

"Jim and John's beautiful love story and their demand for basic dignity and respect played a key part in winning marriage equality for all of us," said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida. "We are so looking forward to celebrating marriage equality with Jim and with the community this November." 

On Wednesday, Equality Florida announced that Jim would be receiving the award.

"On behalf of couples everywhere, Equality Florida will give its highest honor, the Voice for Equality Award, to Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision affirming the freedom to marry throughout the United States," the organization said in a news release.

“It is an honor to accept this award, and I feel humbled to be at the forefront of this important decision furthering equality for the LGBT community,” Jim Obergefell is quoted as saying in the release. “While this decision was an important one, we still have a long way to go. This historic decision should fuel our efforts to ensure global equality for our entire community, and I invite you to join me as we continue this journey for positive change.”

Anyone interested attending the ceremony can call Equality Florida at 305-335-2102 or send an email to row@eqfl.org.


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