Jim Obergefell (Credit: Human Rights Campaign).
Jim Obergefell has a question for the GOP candidates. But whether any of them will directly answer that question remains up in the air.
Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the case that challenged Ohio’s same-sex marriage ban, and, upon appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the bans of nearly 30 other states, has written a guest editorial in The Cleveland Plain Dealer asking the current crop of GOP candidates for the presidency to clarify their positions on same-sex marriage.
Noting the proximity of Thursday’s GOP debate in Cleveland to his own home in the Cincinnati area, and the importance that Ohio usually plays in presidential elections, Obergefell asks an open question intended for would-be Republican nominees: “Do you support efforts to undo my marriage?”
Obergefell married his late husband, John Arthur, in Maryland in 2013 as John was suffering from ALS and his health was declining. The couple had wanted the Ohio Registrar to identify Obergefell as the surviving spouse on the death certificate, sparking the case that challenged Ohio’s 2004 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
“As the debate draws closer, I’ve found myself thinking about the often-repeated saying, ‘As Ohio goes, so goes the nation,’ and how this upcoming election could impact my marriage,” Obergefell writes. “When I look at my wedding ring, I see the honesty, trust and love I shared with my husband. And looking ahead, I need to know: Do the presidential candidates see the same thing, or do they see an opportunity to drive us apart? What will my marriage mean in 2016 and beyond if a candidate who opposes marriage equality wins the White House?”
In his editorial, Obergefell also takes direct aim at some of the statements made by the Republican candidates with regard to same-sex marriage, specifically referencing those made by Gov. Scott Walker (Wisc.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and former Gov. Rick Perry (Texas) communicating their opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision. He also jabs former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.) and Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), among others, for having “stated their disagreement with the ruling, re-emphasized their opposition to marriage equality, but provided few or no additional details as to what that would mean should they be elected.” He also contrasted the reactions of the GOP candidates to those from the Democratic side of the aisle, such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and former Gov. Martin O’Malley (Md.).
“As an Ohioan, a voter, and a gay American, this all left me with some important, straightforward questions, ones that I hope all Republican presidential candidates will be asked when they come to Cleveland on Thursday: Do you support efforts to undo my marriage?” Obergefell writes. “If you win the presidency, will you follow Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader and support a constitutional amendment that would invalidate my marriage? Do you seek to be able to ‘fire’ any Supreme Court justice that disagrees with the majority, as Dr. Ben Carson wishes to? Would you apply a litmus test to your Supreme Court nominees, so that only those who would overturn Obergefell v. Hodges would be considered? When you say that marriage equality is now ‘the law of the land,’ does that mean you’ll defend it?”
In addition to marriage, Obergefell also notes the “widespread” level of support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections, and asks the candidates if they support or oppose the recently introduced Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations.
In response to Obergefell’s op-ed, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) launched its own social media campaign, #StandwithJim, asking supporters to share a graphic of Obergefell asking, “Will you defend my marriage?” which also contains a URL for HRC’s website. Following that link brings the viewer to a page detailing the various Republican candidates’ stances on LGBT rights.
“When Republican presidential hopefuls gather here [in Ohio] this week, it’s important that voters in Ohio and across the country learn whether they will drag us back to an era in which gay and lesbian couples can no longer marry,” Obergefell writes at the conclusion of his editorial. “For me and my family, and for millions who stood up for equality across the country, we’ve earned the right to know.”