Jim Obergefell on the Future of Marriage Equality & Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Legacy

Meet the man whose name is forever tied to the historic ruling that granted marriage equality to same-sex couples nationwide.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision making marriage equality the law of the land. Jim Obergefell, the case’s lead plaintiff, now reflects on that historic ruling and the future impact of the Court.

“I’m living proof that the Supreme Court plays an important role in extending equal rights to all Americans,” Family Equality’s Director of Individual Giving, Jim Obergefell, reflects. On July 19, 2013, he and his late husband, John, first filed suit against the State of Ohio. They did so because they wanted their marriage—their family—to exist in the eyes of the government.

“From the start, our case wasn’t just about marriage. We were, in effect, fighting for our family,” Jim says.

On Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Legacy

That fight led Jim to the steps of the Supreme Court, forever tying his name to history—and to the legacy of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the video, Jim recalls one of his favorite memories from oral arguments:

“One of the Justices brought up the argument that we were trying to redefine marriage. Ruth Bader Ginsburg jumped right in and said, ‘I’m sorry. We already have redefined marriage, because women are no longer the property of their husbands.

“I knew from the start that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was probably on our side. But to hear her immediately shoot down that other, tired argument was wonderful.”

On the Future of Marriage Equality

Of course, marriage equality remains the law of the land. But there is no question that with the recent retirement of Justice Kennedy and the loss of equality champion, Justice Ginsburg, we are at a heightened risk of attacks against our families.

“The potential impact of this Court has perhaps never been greater than it is right now,” says Jim.

In fact, on the Court’s first day reconvening after Justice Ginsburg’s passing, Justices Thomas and Alito questioned the nationwide precedent established in Obergefell’s case five years ago. And the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett—a clear opponent of LGBTQ+ equality—poses new risks to the LGBTQ+ community’s rights, from healthcare to family formation.

As it is, this Fall, the Court is set to hear arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that has the potential to allow a taxpayer-funded child welfare provider the right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people seeking to foster and adopt children.

Despite these potential threats to our families, Family Equality’s team—including Jim Obergefell—is fighting every day to protect our rights and develop policies that support LGBTQ+ families.

“We’re fighting for you,” Jim says. “We’re fighting for your family. That’s what I fought for. And that’s what Family Equality is doing.”

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