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John Arthur (right) and Jim Obergefell aboard their flight to Maryland.
John Arthur, the terminally ill Ohio man who traveled to Maryland to marry his longtime partner Jim Obergefell on an airport tarmac and then sued to have their marriage recognized in their home state, died on October 22, 2013 from complications of ALS.
Arthur's death was announced on the website of the law firm representing the couple in their federal lawsuit challenging Ohio's ban of same-sex marriage.
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Arthur worked in benefits and project management for several companies, including Fidelity Investments, Macys, Siebel Systems, and Sogeti. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. In addition to Obergefell, he is survived by his father and a brother.
Arthur and Obergefell made national news on July 11, 2013 when they traveled at great expense and inconvenience via air ambulance to be married in Maryland, and then immediately returned to their home state, which refused to recognize their legal marriage.
Thus, on July 19, 2013 the couple filed suit in federal court asking that the state of Ohio be compelled to acknowledge their marriage. In particular, the lawsuit requested that the Ohio Registrar of death certificates be required to record Arthur's status at death as "married" and Obergefell be listed as his "surviving spouse."
On July 22, 2013, federal district judge Timothy S. Black issued a temporary restraining order (since renewed) requiring Ohio to recognize the marriage of Arthur and Obergefell. The order applies only to their marriage but has wide implications for all legally-married same-sex couples who live in states that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Judge Black's restraining order against the state of Ohio not only granted the request of the couple in regard to the death certificate (which is important because without recognition of their marriage, the couple will not be able to be interred side by side in Arthur's family's cemetery plots), but also suggests strongly that Ohio's state constitutional ban on recognition of same-sex marriage violates the United States Constitution and its guarantee of equal protection.
The dramatic story of Arthur and Obergefell's marriage, which was first reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer and was the subject of a blog here is a tale of love and devotion, but it also illustrates the injustice posed by the refusal of states to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
The notice posted by the law firm of Gerhardstein & Branch extends sympathy to Obergefell and pays tribute to the relationship of the two men: "Their love is a model for all of us. Even as John faced his last days he was fighting for the rights of all same-sex couples. Part of John's legacy will be the difference he has already made in the struggle for marriage equality. Thank you John for your courage and love."
The video below from the Cincinnati Enquirer tells the touching story of Arthur and Obergefell's marriage.