Politics /

Jim Obergefell Running for Ohio House of Representatives

The man who led the charge for the right to same-sex marriage nationwide has announced his bid for public office


Jim Obergefell, the man whose name is synonymous with same-sex marriage, announced Tuesday that he is campaigning for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives. 

Obergefell is running as a Democrat in the state’s 89th District, which includes Erie and Ottawa counties. He is challenging the Republican incumbent, D.J. Swearingen, who is serving his first term in office. 

Obergefell recently moved back to his hometown, Sandusky, which is part of the 89th district. The recent move was based on a desire to be closer to family, he shared Tuesday at a news conference.

“This district deserves a representative who works to make things better for everyone. I watched the good-paying jobs my father and brothers worked at GM and Scott Paper vanish when those factories closed. I watched my family struggle in the aftermath. I remember eating the so-called government cheese. I was just a kid,” said Obergefell.

According to Obergefell, many of his friends and family have moved out of the area because they didn’t have any opportunities and could see “no way to stay in the community they love surrounded by the people they care about.” 

“We can fix that,” he said. 

Obergefell spoke highly of his advocacy work. The most notable would be the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015, which legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. 

Obergefell and his husband, John Arthur, began their path of advocacy in July 2013 after they flew to Maryland and got married on the tarmac of a Baltimore airport as their most convenient legal option. As a result, they sued the state of Ohio in 2013 for the right to marry legally. 

The couple alleged that Ohio discriminated against lawfully married couples who wed out of state by not recognizing same-sex marriages. The case was later consolidated with other similar cases in Ohio and eventually was taken up by the Supreme Court. That work, spanning years, led to the freedom of same-sex couples in the U.S. to legally marry. 

Arthur, diagnosed with ALS in 2011, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, died only three months after their wedding.

“I’ve been part of the national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans,” Obergefell said Tuesday. “But I didn’t do that just for my husband and our marriage. I championed the American ideals of equal justice under law, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and we the people. Simply put, I advocate for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell said if he successfully wins the House’s bid, he would create a bipartisan caucus to protect Lake Erie and improve access to jobs and proper living wages.

He said he also wants to make Ohio a state where LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups feel safe and protected. He said he would voice his support for the Equality Act. This bill was passed last year by the U.S. House and provides the first federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in employment, housing, jury duty, public accommodations, and other areas of life.

A Democrat hasn’t held the seat since 2014. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that redistricting efforts continue, and the district lines are subject to change.

If Obergefell wins, he would be the second LGBTQ member of the Ohio General Assembly. The other is Senator Nickie Antonio, a Democrat representing the 23rd District.

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