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Jim Obergefell, Ohio man at heart of marriage equality case, expresses concerns after Roe

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The Ohio man behind the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that recognized the legality of same-sex marriage said he's worried about the future of marriage equality.

That decision by the U.S. Supreme Court came down just over seven years ago. But the case was called into question in a portion of the court’s ruling last week that struck down a constitutional right to abortion.

The majority opinion in the abortion ruling said it applies only to that one issue. But U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the 2015 marriage equality decision also should be reconsidered. That ruling struck down both an Ohio law and a state constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, along with a federal law and laws in some 40 states.

“These are, in essence, trigger laws where if Obergefell v. Hodges is overturned, and states could choose to immediately say we will no longer issue marriage licenses, we will no longer recognize marriages, we will no longer recognize your relationship or your family and everything that goes with it," said Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the marriage equality case.

Obergefell said in an interview for "The State of Ohio" that hundreds of thousands of couples have gotten married in the wake of his win.

“Those marriages have done nothing but make those couples, those families secure and the recipients of dignity, respect and rights. They have harmed no one," Obergefell said. "And for a sitting supreme court justice to paint a target on the back of marriage equality and the most fundamental relationship we can have as a human being is despicable.”

Obergefell said his fight to be listed as the surviving spouse on his husband’s death certificate sparked an interest in running for office. He’s now a Democratic candidate for the Ohio House from Sandusky, facing incumbent DJ Swearingen, a Republican, in a newly-drawn district.

The area has elected Republicans since 2014, when Steve Kraus defeated former Ohio House minority leader and former Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern. Kraus' term was cut short when he was convicted of felony theft for stealing from an elderly person's house in September 2015.

Steve Arndt was appointed and then elected in 2016, but he retired three years into his term in July 2019. Swearingen was appointed and then elected in 2020.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.