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Topics In the News
Hospice-bound Man Marries His Partner on Airport Tarmac
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 07/14/13
Last updated on: 07/14/13
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Jim Obergefell (left) and John Arthur marry.

Cincinnati.com reports on an incredibly moving story about a terminally-ill patient and his partner who flew at great expense to be married on an airport tarmac in Maryland because their home state, Ohio, bans same-sex marriage. The story is one of love and devotion, but also of the injustice posed by bans on same-sex marriage in 37 states. Although the landmark Windsor decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, it left in place the bans on same-sex marriage in the large majority of states.

The story, reported by Julie Zimmerman on behalf of the Cincinnati Enquirer Editorial Board, chronicles the ordeal faced by John Arthur, a hospice patient suffering from ALS, and his partner of 20 years, Jim Obergefell, who had to leave their home state in order to marry each other.

As Zimmerman writes, "A wedding for the couple would not be easy. Because same-sex marriage is illegal in Ohio, and because the Supreme Court ruling left marriage bans at the state level intact, Arthur and Obergefell couldn't marry here. The prospect of travel was difficult because Arthur is bedridden."

The couple decided to marry in Maryland because, unlike many other states, it requires only one partner to apply for the license. Still, they had to raise $12,700 to rent a medical transport plane. To their surprise and gratification, donations from their relatives, friends, and colleagues poured in to make the journey possible.

On June 9, 2013, Obergefell flew to Baltimore where he obtained the marriage license and flew back a few hours later.

On June 11, Arthur and Obergefell boarded a Lear jet at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport with a nurse, two pilots trained in emergency medicine, and Arthur's aunt, Paulette Roberts, who had been ordained to perform weddings with the hope that she would someday get to marry them.

The plane touched down in Baltimore at 10:39 a.m., parked off the runway, and the pilots stepped outside.

In the cramped cabin of the jet, with Obergefell seated next to Arthur's stretcher, the couple turned to each other and held hands. Roberts sat behind them and began the brief ceremony.

When it was over, and as the couple and Roberts celebrated with Champagne, the pilots climbed back in and prepared to leave. After 56 minutes on the ground they were headed back to Cincinnati, matching rings on their left hands, finally married after 20 years, six months, and 11 days together.

The video below documents the wedding of a devoted couple who have received wonderful support from their friends and relatives, but, like gay and lesbian couples who live in most of the states in this country, have experienced ugly discrimination from their home state.

With a hat tip to Andy Towle at Towleroad.com.

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