Ohio AG DeWine Under Fire For Appealing Dying Gay Man’s Marriage, Burial Plans

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, is under fire today for his plan to appeal a decision earlier this week by U.S. District Court Judge Tim Black involving the marriage of a dying man and his husband not legally recognized in Ohio.

Ohio man John Arthur is dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as ALS. Arthur recently flew to Maryland to marry longtime partner Jim Obergefell, hoping to legally square away the protections conferred by such a union before he passes — something that could happen within the next few days.

The federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday to allow for Obergefell to be listed as Arthur’s surviving spouse when he dies, a concession he opined gave “absolutely no evidence that the State of Ohio or its citizens will be harmed by [its] issuance” and that “no one beyond Plaintiffs themselves will be affected by such a limited order at all.”

ThinkProgress explains that the ruling on the dying Ohio man’s same-sex marriage, while not likely to affect the marriages of others, will mean the difference between Arthur dying with specific assurances or dying unsure of his husband’s fate:

“In his final days, Arthur wants to honor his commitment to his husband. He wants his own death certificate to list Obergefell as his ‘surviving spouse.’ And he wants to die knowing that his partner of 20 years can someday be buried next to him in a family plot bound by a directive that only permits his lawfully wedded spouse to be interred alongside him. And, on Monday, a federal judge ruled that Arthur should indeed have the dignity of dying alongside a man that Ohio will recognize as his husband.”

According to local news sources, AG candidate David Pepper blasted DeWine’s intent to appeal the judge’s decision on the dying man’s marriage:

“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 to “lead the fight” against Arthur’s dying wish, 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.”

(In the clip above, with some NSFW language, columnist Dan Savage discusses the effects of not recognizing same-sex marriages on surviving spouses.)

Pepper challenged DeWine on his opposition to the terminally ill man’s marriage by quoting the judge, who said that dying with an “incorrect death certificate that prohibits Arthur from being buried with dignity constitutes irreparable harm.”