The real estate agent from Cincinnati was the lead plaintiff in the historic gay marriage case. For the past week, he’s been heading to the Supreme Court early on decision days to wait in line for a seat in the court. Friday the decision he was waiting for finally came.
Friends and family immediately began congratulating him on his Facebook page. “How does it feel to be a civil rights hero?” wrote one friend. Another wrote, “Love wins.”
He then posted, “WE WON!!!!!”
That’s quite an understatement for someone whose name will now be uttered in the same sentence as Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade.
Obergefell came down the steps from the court to a throng of cheers. People sang the “Star Spangled Banner.” There were hugs, speeches and interviews.
And then something really crazy happened: While he was speaking to CNN, he got a phone call on speakerphone.
It was President Obama.
Obama: “Your leadership on this has changed the country.”
Obergefell: “It’s really an honor to have become part of that fight.”
When the conversation was over, Obergefell appeared to mutter to himself, “Oh my god.”
Obergefell is unlike the other plaintiffs in the case: He doesn’t get to go home and celebrate with his loved one. His husband, John, died from ALS. They were wed on the tarmac of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, flying there because they couldn’t get married in Ohio.
Ohio didn’t want Obergefell’s name listed as the surviving spouse on the death certificate. That’s what Obergefell gets — his name, as surviving spouse, for eternity.
“I’m just Jim,” he said. “I just stood up for our marriage.”