When the Supreme Court hears arguments April 28 to determine whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, it will focus on four appeals. The lead plaintiff in the case is Jim Obergefell, an Ohio man suing for the right to be listed on his late husband’s death certificate as the surviving spouse. Ohio officials oppose his wish.
Because Obergefell’s case (Obergefell v. Hodges) has the lowest case number, the other three cases are lumped under his. That puts him an extraordinary position of possibly being remembered in history with likes of Brown and Roe.
Here is a summary of the three main plaintiffs in the other cases, some of which include multiple combined lawsuits:
Tanco v. Haslam: Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty, both professors of veterinary medicine, were married in New York, where gay marriage became legal in 2011. They have one child together. The couple left New York to teach at the University of Tennessee, but the state does not recognize same-sex marriages from other states and thus treats the couple, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, “as strangers to each other” and “two unmarried women.” There are two other couples listed in the appeal, including a full-time Army reservist.
DeBoer v. Snyder: April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, both nurses in Michigan, wanted to jointly adopt three children they were raising in foster care and sued for that right, challenging a ban on adoption by same-sex couples. The judge in the case noted that the same state legal provision that prevented them from doing so also prevented same-sex marriages, which he called “the underlying issue.” The case was amended to challenge the prohibition against same-sex marriage.
Bourke v. Beshear: Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon have been together since meeting in college in 1991. In 2004, they were married in Canada, in a ceremony overlooking Niagara Falls. They adopted two children, but Kentucky, where they live and where gay marriage is prohibited, only allows heterosexual married couples to adopt children. DeLeon is the legal parent. Bourke is a legal guardian. In court filings, the couple says that if DeLeon dies, Bourke’s “lack of a permanent parent/child relationship with the children would threaten the stability of the surviving family.”