You Better Recognize

So I could’ve married my cousin, Marc, when I was 13 in Tennessee and we could now be 35 years into Ohio-based bliss but, so far, I cannot marry my partner anywhere else and legally leave her any of my crap in Ohio? SMH. And this is what the Obergefell/A

If the equation of two people joining together in the schematics of marriage equals wealth-building and legacies, then I now fully understand the fear and loathing behind the heterosexual family of man’s attempts to block and deny same-sex marriages — not unions or commitments or any other non-binding verbiage or soft-focus attempts at appeasement — because marriage comprises a legal and binding contract.

And contracts make us somehow equal — at least equally protected under the law — each with similar expectations and rights, i. e. the right to say who gets the heirloom china, who raises surviving minor children, who has dibs on books and records, who’ll receive annuities, Social Security benefits and who gets the house.

And if gays and lesbians can marry and not merely unite or commit, then that not only levels the playing field — the official can now wave a rainbow flag signaling all fouls.

From the hetero vantage point, nothing says lesser than like lack of protection.

But what does the law say?

As with the groundbreaking nature of all test cases, someone must step up and out, naming themselves as sick and tired of the status quo.

These people stretch and test the limits of antiquated laws to make those laws make sense for their lives.

Back in the day, to illustrate boring wire stories rife with statistics, reporters would ferret out people breaking free from the bondage of generational welfare or people reaching for success in welfare-to-work programs, and ever-clever news editors of yore used to call this “putting a face on the news.”

Finding couples to illustrate the fight against Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage?

I’d call this “putting a face on the blues.”

During Monday evening’s broadcast, veteran WLWT News 5 reporter and closet poet John London — the best to ever do it in this city — introduced what will amount to the federal test case of Jim Obergefell and John Arthur with an unintentionally funny set-up that illustrates just how ludicrous this state’s marriage ban is.

“If it’s good enough for first cousins and minors it should be good enough for gay couples, as well,” London said in his trademark grave-but-earnest tone. “First cousins and minors can get married in other states and be recognized in Ohio.”

So I could’ve married my cousin, Marc, when I was 13 in Tennessee and we could now be 35 years into Ohio-based bliss but, so far, I cannot marry my partner anywhere else and legally leave her any of my crap in Ohio?


And this is what the Obergefell/Arthur family is upset about.

That and the fact that Arthur is dying from Lou Gehrig’s Disease and when he does, if his death certificate doesn’t list him as “married” or Obergefell as his surviving spouse, then Obergefell stands to lose access to death benefits, Social Security and all their property acquired during their 25-year partnership. (They were married in Maryland in early July. Their marriage proclamation is not legally binding in Ohio.)

So they filed a federal suit claiming Ohio violates the United States Constitution for failing to recognize the gay and lesbian marriages conducted out of state. Their suit names, among others, the registrar of the Cincinnati Health Department. The registrar is the person who’d put “married” in the appropriate line and Obergefell’s name in the line listing a surviving spouse.

A death certificate is a Golden Ticket when it comes to navigating post-mortem mazes of unclaimed funds, unpaid bills and claims to properties.

In a preemptive strike at the beginning of a long road for Obergefell and Arthur, Judge Timothy Black Monday afternoon granted a temporary restraining order blocking the registrar from issuing a death certificate that does not list Arthur as being married; it must also list Obergefell as Arthur’s surviving spouse.

The same as both of their presumably heterosexual parents.

There is a long and growing cluster of states that now officially ordain and recognize same-sex marriages:

Massachusetts (May 2004)

Connecticut (November 2008)

Iowa (April 2009)

Vermont (civil unions in July 2000, but not legally recognized as same-sex marriages until September 2009 and the only state so far to legalize same-sex marriage through legislative action)

New Hampshire (January 2010)

Washington, D.C. (December 2009, surviving Congressional opposition and a Supreme Court challenge)

New York (June 2011)

Maryland (January 2013, and the first state in which same-sex marriage rights were granted by popular vote)

Maine (December 2012)

Delaware (May 2013)

California (finally on June 26, 2013)

Rhode Island (May 2013)

Minnesota (May 2013)

Obergefell says he and Arthur only want the rights to be listed as married spouses on Arthur’s eventual death certificate, but if other, bigger things happen, then why not?

This is quietly thrilling to me, like watching someone else get a lap dance: I’m not participating but through my ambivalence I see the ride, I feel the significance and my heart races at the public spectacle people like Obergefell and Arthur are making of themselves for the greater good.

My partner and I have been whispering to one another about getting married, more for the social pronouncement and display and for the personal meaning as if to say, “See? Yes! Here we are!”

Plus, we both do really love a good party and we do like putting one on.

However, she’s talked to me seriously and solemnly about taking custody of her teenaged son if she dies before me.

“He’s all I have. Really,” she said.

I have more earthly possessions which I’ve told her to take and distribute however she sees fit among my three siblings and small circle of friends. 

I have a living will that needs a complete overhaul.

If I die first the last burden I want her dealing with is my mountains of books, art, photographs and all the other stuff that held meaning to only me through a cascade of tears.

But we live in Ohio.

Thankfully, so do Jim Obergefell and John Arthur.

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]

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