Jim Obergefell fought all the way to the Supreme Court to be listed on his husband’s death certificate. He won.
Now, thanks to a unanimous city council vote in his hometown, the couple will be listed together, forever, on the street corner where they lived.
On June 21, 2017, Cincinnati renamed the block of Mercer Street “John Arthur and Jim Obergefell Way” two years after Obergefell’s successful suit made marriage equality the law of the land.
“I still struggle when people call me a hero, an icon,” Obergefell told WLWT5 at the naming ceremony. “I don’t feel that way. I just feel like someone who loved my husband and fought for him and fought to live up to my promises.”
Obergefell and Arthur were forced to take extraordinary measures to marry in 2013, since Ohio did not recognize same-sex marriage at the time.
The couple chartered a small plane that could accommodate Arthur, who was suffering from ALS, and provide for his medical needs.
The pair exchanged vows on the tarmac in Baltimore before flying home 10 minutes later.
By taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court and winning, Obergefell helped transform marriage equality from a cultural lightning rod to a virtual non-issue.
In the year following the ruling, same-sex marriages spiked 33% to include nearly 1 in 10 LGBTQ adults, a total of approximately 1 million couples.
Meanwhile, support for marriage equality has grown steadily after the ruling, following a brief dip. Over 60% of Americans now belief same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, according to a Pew Research report.
Yesterday’s high court decisions, however, demonstrate that the fight for full equality continues.
Citing Obergefell, the Court ruled that Arkansas must list same-sex parents on their child’s birth certificate, but also announced plans to hear a case involving a Colorado bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding on First Amendment grounds.
A ruling for the plaintiff could open the door for businesses with religious proprietors to discriminate against LGBTQ customers.
Meanwhile, anti-trans “bathroom bills” continue to make their way through legislatures in 16 states. Efforts to repeal North Carolina’s HB2 led to a “compromise” bill which limits local efforts to pass trans-inclusive policies.
For Obergefell, the most rewarding aspect of his visibility is hearing how his struggle to acknowledge John has inspired others.
“The best thing possible is when people recognize me and stop me to tell me a story. To thank me. To hug me.” he told WLWT5.
To those whose lives were touched by the Supreme Court ruling, a small city corner must seem a well-deserved honor for a man and the husband he fought to recognize. Meanwhile, the struggle he helped lead goes on.
Here’s to many more streets named for many more heroes and icons in the future.