May 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Jim Obergefell prepares for another fight

James "Jim" Obergefell, named plaintiff in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, exits the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 22, 2015.
James "Jim" Obergefell, named plaintiff in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, exits the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 22, 2015. Photo: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jim Obergefell, whose lawsuit led to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, says he feels a new urgency and clarity about his role in the LBGTQ community since a leaked Supreme Court draft decision previewed the end of Roe v. Wade.

Why it matters: Obergefell and other advocates fear that beyond abortion rights, overturning Roe could threaten legal protections for same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, contraception and even intimate sexual conduct by consenting adults.

  • "My job is to help people understand just how afraid they should be," Obergefell told Axios.

Driving the news: Same-sex marriage has been the law of the land for nearly seven years, since the high court's landmark 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

  • But some advocates now fear that the interpretation of the 14th Amendment in the court's draft Roe decision could also call into question other rights the court has guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, including same-sex marriage.

What they're saying: Obergefell said he's fielded calls and texts left and right since Politico obtained and published the court's draft opinion.

  • Some are seeking comfort. He said he told one of his former fellow plaintiffs, "That isn't my job right now."
  • If Obergefell v. Hodges were overturned, he said, "We'd once again be in a world where the most significant relationship of a person's life—and the protections, the dignity, the rights, everything that come comes with that relationship—can disappear just by crossing a border within our nation."

What's next: Obergefell is running for a seat in Ohio's state legislature, seeking to challenge incumbent GOP state Rep. D.J. Swearingen in a conservative district that includes his hometown of Sandusky. Swearigen won against a Democratic challenger by around 15 points last cycle.

  • Republicans have a lock on Ohio's state House with a 64-35 majority.
  • Obergefell says Pennsylvania's first openly gay state legislator, Brian Sims, now a candidate for lieutenant governor, made him promise he would not immediately say 'no' if people urged him to run for office.
  • On June 24, Obergefell will attend the grand opening of John Arthur Flats, named for his late husband. It's the first targeted LGBTQ-friendly 55+ senior affordable housing development in Cincinnati.

"Where some might have left their home and moved to a big coastal city, Jim is an Ohioan to his core, and he’s committed to showing the country that our state can be a welcoming place for all families," Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown told Axios.

The bottom line: Ann Hippler, Obergefell's older sister, told Axios she and her brother were raised to believe that "you have that right as an American to be able to do things, to have your own life. So I think that's why I think he worked so hard to get laws passed."

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