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Ohio Plays Role In History Following SCOTUS Decision On Same-Sex Marriage

Many counties around the state are already issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s historic ruling. 

Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow has a look at how the state's leaders and citizens are responding.

Jim Obergefell, of Cincinnati, says all he wanted was for his marriage to John Arthur to be honored by the state by putting his name on his husband’s death certificate.

Arthur, Obergefell’s partner of 20 years, passed away in 2013 shortly after the couple got married in Maryland. Obergefell’s fight to get his name on the death certificate went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is where he was when the high court came down with its decision.

“Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court affirms what millions from across the country already know to be true in our hearts, our love is equal. That the four words etched onto the front of the Supreme Court “Equal Justice Under Law” apply to us too,” said Obergefell.

The state’s argument for fighting against Obergefell’s case goes back to a statewide election in 2004, when voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine declined to talk about the ruling but did offer a written statement standing by his “obligation and duty” to defend that constitutional amendment. He didn’t offer an opinion on the ruling, but has publicly opposed same-sex marriage in the past.

As for Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the case, he says his home state will finally honor the commitment he made to John Arthur two years ago.

“Now at long last Ohio will recognize our marriage and most important marriage equality will come to every state across our country,” said Obergefell.

Charles Tassell is with the social conservative group, Citizens for Community Values. He calls the decision a travesty and says this issue should’ve been addressed through the voters rather than unelected Supreme Court justices.

“Rather than letting the nation work through it—the judges have tried to give it a quick one-time fix. That is really going to cause a lot of difficulty and trouble for this country,” Tassell said.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper commends Obergefell, a fellow Cincinnati native, and says this is a watershed moment for LGBT rights.

Pepper, who ran for Attorney General against DeWine last year, took a hard swing at his former opponent, and says Ohio’s reputation will be damaged in the history books.

“I think it’s a bad day for Ohio because our state was the last one to go there and it’s because we have leaders who simply refused to see what was I think was a pretty clear consequence of recent decisions on the constitution,” Pepper said.

Tassell disagrees with that viewpoint.

“History hasn’t been written yet, let’s start with that. We can look at the abortion issue and go from Roe v Wade and this is a very close approximation to it. The court was wrong then and they’re wrong again today,” said Tassell.

Gov. John Kasich said in an interview with Ohio Public Radio and TV in October that he agrees with the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment, but that he won’t disparage those who don’t support what he called “traditional marriage”.

After the ruling, Kasich’s spokesperson Rob Nichols released a statement in response to the decision saying “the governor has always believed in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.” But Nichols went on to say the state must respect the nation’s highest court and its decision.

A week before the ruling I asked Obergefell if he harbored any resentment against his home state for fighting against his case.

“I would be lying if I said there isn’t some hurt that I live in a state that would fight us and want nothing more than to erase our 20 year relationship and say ‘you and John don’t exist, you don’t matter’ so there’s definitely some hurt,” said Obergefell.

Obergefell went on to say that he looks to the state’s leaders now to do everything they can to make sure the ruling is implemented.

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