LGBTQ+ Marriage Pioneer, University of Cincinnati Grad Jim Obergefell Is Running for Ohio's 89th District

The U.S. Supreme Court case "Obergefell vs. Hodges" legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country in 2015.

Jan 18, 2022 at 11:53 am
Jim Obergefell is running to become the Representative for Ohio's 89th District. - Photo: Emma Parker Photography
Photo: Emma Parker Photography
Jim Obergefell is running to become the Representative for Ohio's 89th District.

The man who helped change the course of America's marriage equality through law is now hoping to do something similar in the political arena.

Jim Obergefell, who attended the University of Cincinnati and was the lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Obergefell vs. Hodges, announced Tuesday that he is running for Ohio's 89th House district. The district includes portions of Erie and Ottawa counties along Lake Erie and is currently represented by Republican D.J. Swearingen. Obergefell will run as a Democrat.

"This district in the past has had Democrats as the representative. It can again," Obergefell said during a Jan. 18 press conference. "I think I've proven with my fight for marriage equality that I don't mind being an underdog. I don't mind fighting a very big fight when it's the right thing to do."
Obergefell became a household name in the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court Case Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized marriage between members of the same sex throughout the country.

In 2013, Obergefell married longtime partner John Arthur, whom he met in Cincinnati, in Maryland after Arthur became very ill with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Because their home state of Ohio did not recognize same-sex marriages, Obergefell would not be able to be listed on Arthur's death certificate as the surviving spouse.

After Arthur died, Obergefell filed suit in lower courts before the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, with all nine judges ultimately deciding that states could not discriminate between heterosexual and homosexual marriages and that legal marriages in one state must be recognized in other states. That decision continues to stand, but some attorneys who were involved in the case say that Republicans are continuing to chip at the law, and marriage protections could be removed in the future.

Obergefell documented the journey in his book Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality.

Obergefell was born in Sandusky and after stints in Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and Columbus, now lives there again near his siblings. In running for the Ohio House of Representatives, Obergefell says he plans to focus on equitable healthcare, well-paying jobs and improving schools.

He also will concentrate on Lake Erie as a driver of economy and tourism, he said, intending to form a bipartisan commission to invest in the projects and infrastructure around the lake as well as its protection.

"We live on Lake Erie, our area's greatest natural resource. We rely on the lake for our drinking water, tourism, recreation and as one of the drivers of our local economy," Obergefell said. "On day one, I'll invite the governor to Ohio's North Coast so they understand Lake Erie is an asset for the entire state." (Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is running for the Democratic nomination to take on Ohio's incumbent governor Mike DeWine later this year.)

Stay connected with CityBeat. Subscribe to our newsletters, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google News, Apple News and Reddit.

Send CityBeat a news or story tip or submit a calendar event.