Ohio Man Who Married On Tarmac At The End Of His Life Dies Without Resolution

It was John Arthur’s dying wish that he and long-term partner Jim Obergefell marry before his looming death, but Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, fought to appeal a July decision by U.S. District Court Judge Tim Black that would have facilitated the man’s wishes.

Arthur suffered from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as ALS, and had little time left to secure the protections a marriage legally recognized would confer as his clock ran out. Obergefell and Arthur were forced to fly to Maryland to marry as predictions this summer grew dim about Arthur’s health — doing so on the tarmac as the dying man was too ill to even stand.

Black was forced to override DeWine in a temporary restraining order not long after, allowing for Obergefell to be listed as a legal spouse and saying in an opinion that “absolutely no evidence that the State of Ohio or its citizens will be harmed by [the order’s] issuance” and that “no one beyond Plaintiffs themselves will be affected by such a limited order at all.”

DeWine’s opponent David Pepper lashed out at the AG’s fervor in targeting the pair’s marriage under the circumstances:

“Above all, an Attorney General takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is a truly sad example of Constitutional rights being violated, and the deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal treatment.”

DeWine vowed at the time, however, to “lead the fight” against Arthur’s marriage to Obergefell, saying:

“There are other long term implications that go beyond his life… The survivor under this order would be able to take full advantage under Ohio tax law of being a surviving spouse. He would be able to take advantage under federal law, I assume, for Social Security and any other benefits that he might be entitled to as a result of being a spouse.”

Today, John Arthur died at the age of 48 of ALS, and attorney Al Gerhardstein commented not only on his passing, but on what he did for same-sex couples in Ohio:

“Their love is a model for all of us… Part of John’s legacy will be the difference he has already made in the struggle for marriage equality.”

While John Arthur’s battle to be legally recognized as Jim Obergefell’s spouse was high-profile, there is still no assurance that when Obergefell dies, he will be able to be buried alongside his partner of several decades.