TOLEDO, Ohio – Gay rights advocate Jim Obergefell, whose name was atop the U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, announced Tuesday that he's running for a seat in the Ohio legislature.
Obergefell, a Democrat, said he wants Ohio to be a place where people feel they have equal opportunity.
He was the lead plaintiff in the landmark 2015 ruling that put an end to same-sex marriage bans, turning him into one of the most visible figures in the marriage-equality movement.
Obergefell will run for the Ohio House in a district that includes his hometown of Sandusky and has been dominated by Republicans the past eight years. Obergefell moved back to his hometown in 2021 to be closer to family.
“I think I’ve proven with my fight for marriage equality that I don’t mind being an underdog,” he said.
Obergefell said the area of northern Ohio he wants to represent has struggled to attract good paying jobs and that too many people have been forced to leave. He said two of his biggest priorities are improving the region’s job outlook and protecting Lake Erie, a major driver of the area’s economy.
His path to becoming an “accidental” activist began when he and his partner, John Arthur, were unable to wed in Ohio because of their home state’s ban on same-sex marriage. At the time, Obergefell was living in Cincinnati and hadn’t been much involved in politics.
Obergefell and Arthur, who was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, decided to get married in Maryland after the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. But Ohio’s ban meant Obergefell would not be listed as Arthur’s surviving spouse on his death certificate.
They won a temporary injunction and when Arthur died a little over three months after they were married, Obergefell was listed as his spouse on his death certificate.
But the legal victory was overturned, setting the stage for the Supreme Court’s historic decision. By a 5-4 vote, the court ruled on June 26, 2015, that same-sex couples can exercise the fundamental right to marry.
Following the ruling Obergefell has worked for a group that advocates for LGBTQ families and spoken out on transgender and civil rights in appearances, interviews and on social media.