Couple Behind Landmark Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling Now Have A Street Named After Them

"I love that the City Council felt so strongly about this. It was a 9-0 unanimous vote to do this."

Decided on June 26, 2015, by the United States Supreme Court, Obergefell v. Hodges requires all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions. This landmark decision legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, and now the couple behind it is getting a little more recognition: they'll have a street named after them.

A unanimous city council vote on June 21 in Cincinnati, which is Obergefell's hometown and a place the couple called home for more than 20 years, mandated the block formerly known as Mercer Street to be called "John Arthur and Jim Obergefell Way." The vote came nearly two years after Obergefell helped make marriage equality the law of the land by suing for the right to put his name on his husband John's death certificate.

"It's weird. It isn't something I thought I would ever see or have," Obergefell told the Sandusky Register. "I love that the City Council felt so strongly about this. It was a 9-0 unanimous vote to do this."



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And even though Arthur is no longer alive, the gesture still carries a great deal of meaning for the former couple. "John always wanted to leave a mark on Cincinnati," Obergefell told WCPO 9 Cincinnati last week. "That was something he really wanted to do. He didn't have that chance, but now he does. I'm incredibly grateful and I know John would be as well."

Because Ohio hadn't legalized gay marriage back in 2013, the couple had to fly to Baltimore (where same-sex marriage was already legal) to tie the knot. They quickly wed on the tarmac. Their quest to marry was complicated by Arthur's health problems, as he was battling ALS, and Obergefell's fight continued after Arthur's death later that year.

Still, despite his important place in history, Obergefell doesn't see anything particularly heroic in what he did. 

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"I still struggle when people call me a hero, an icon," Obergefell told WLWT 5 at the street dedication ceremony. "I don't feel that way. I just feel like someone who loved my husband and fought for him and fought to live up to my promises."

Hero or not, there's no denying Obergefell's decision to take his fight to the Supreme Court profoundly impacted the LGBTQ community in this country and around the world. According to USA Today, same-sex marriages spiked 33 percent to include nearly 1 in 10 LGBTQ adults in the year following the ruling.

And even though the fight isn't over, as evidenced by the current administration's decision to roll back some Obama-era protections for transgender students, support for gay marriage is on the rise. According to a report from the Pew Research Center released earlier this month, 62 percent of Americans now say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry. That's an improvement over March 2016, when only 55 percent of Americans approved. 

"The best thing possible is when people recognize me and stop me to tell me a story, to thank me, to hug me," Obergefell explained to WLWT 5 of his pivotal role in LGBTQ history.

Cover image via Shutterstock

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