A Case For Equality

JOSEPH REILLY ’18 | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF • Wabash College offers the opportunity for students to meet people and hear speakers who have had incredible life experiences and have accomplished quite significant achievements. This past Tuesday, students had another one of those opportunities. Jim Obergefell, a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that recognized the fundamental right to marry for same-sex couples, delivered a talk in Pioneer Chapel about his life and the events that positioned him on the national stage as one of the forerunners of the LGBT rights movement.

Obergefell married John Arthur in 2013 after the Supreme Court ruled the Defense

of Marriage Act unconstitutional. They flew
a chartered medical jet to Maryland and got married on the tarmac because Arthur was terminally ill with ALS and their home state of Ohio still prohibited marriage between same- sex couples. A few days after their wedding, they learned that Arthur’s Ohio state death certificate would not record him as married or Obergefell as the surviving spouse. Their legal battle to obtain that recognition began the path to the Supreme Court.

“To have John’s death certificate to say he was married and to list my name, we couldn’t wait,” Obergefell said. “Our only option was the court system. For me, filing a federal lawsuit and ending up in federal court and then the Supreme Court, that was exactly where we should have been.”

Since the landmark decision, Obergefell has kept busy with speaking engagements and public appearances, as well as continuing to act as an ‘accidental activist.’ He has embraced the role in various ways, including launching a wine label that sends portions of its revenue to support causes fighting for equality.

Sh’OUT President Corey Leuters ‘19 coordinated the event with co-sponsorship from the Pre-Law Society. Obergefell is a personal hero to Leuters, who emphasized the significance of bringing him to speak on campus.

“We’ve been working on establishing a lecture series to promote visibility, awareness, and advocacy for LGBT people,

primarily for our students who are not as outspoken or comfortable about their sexuality,” Leuters
said. “We wanted to create a forum where they start to see a more visible and inclusive environment. Jim was the biggest proponent for that idea since he was one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage. I feel like there would be no better place to start than with him.”

Leuters hopes to diminish some prejudices and perceptions of being gay on campus. By establishing a lecture series, he hopes to inspire an impact for years to come. Obergefell similarly ended his talk with a focus on change for the future by calling on everyone in attendance to continue to engage
in the political process to achieve societal change.

“One or two, or a small group of people really can do something that changes the world,” Obergefell said.