John Arthur was diagnosed with terminal Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and is currently in hospice care. He’s been in a loving 20-year relationship with his boyfriend Jim Obergefell, and just weeks ago, he and Arthur flew to Maryland to be legally wed on the tarmac. Arthur is now so sick that he can’t even get up from his hospital bed.
The couple has now returned to Ohio, where they are trying to make the most of their last days together, and have one final wish. Arthur would like Obergefell to be acknowledged on his death certificate as his “surviving spouse.” Why is this so important, besides the obvious unadultered fact that two married people should be acknowledged in the eyes of the law? Because Arthur would like to ensure that Obergefell can someday be buried in his family plot next to him. Thanks to a specific family directive, without this express acknowledgement, a cemetery will not honor the request.
Last week, a judge issued an order that would require Ohio to list Obergefell as “surviving spouse.” But then Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that he’d be appealing the judge’s decision. Why? That’s hard to say, especially because the very specific nature of this case means that it would have little impact on the greater gay rights/gay marriage battle. As the judge in the case ruled in his decision, “There is absolutely no evidence that the State of Ohio or its citizens will be harmed. No one beyond Plaintiffs themselves will be affected by such a limited order at all.” So basically, granting Obergefell surviving spouse status, according to the judge (and common sense), has no bearing on anyone else but the couple in question, and yet DeWine would like to prevent a dying man from being granted one last wish.
Plus? According to an Ohio judge, this should not even be an issue because “throughout Ohio’s history, Ohio law has been clear: a marriage solemnized outside of Ohio is valid in Ohio if it is valid where solemnized. [...] How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same sex marriages as ones it will not recognize? The short answer is that Ohio cannot … at least not under the circumstances here.”
Why does this matter? Because Arthur deserves to spend his final days at peace, secure in the knowledge that he and his partner can one day lay side by side. What DeWine believes he will achieve by denying this couple their wish is unclear. But what he will most certainly get is a whole lot of public outrage and criticism.
If you’d like to throw your support behind Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, please contact Mike DeWine’s office and (respectfully) let him know what you think. And if you live in Ohio, come election time, show him how you feel with your vote. [Think Progress]