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Commentary: Hearing threat to Roe vs. Wade, I thought of my gay marriage -- and Jim Obergefell's fight

Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

To be clear, people who can get pregnant — particularly poor women living in states that are primed to ban abortion as soon as possible — would lose the most if this decision holds, not cisgender white men who live in California like me.

But that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't talk about the broader fears and threats to civil rights posed by Alito's originalist reasoning.

At least, that's what I was thinking when I called Jim, who as I expected had already been ruminating on it all — and gearing back up for battle.

"This is a very dark day for women in America, as their right to control their own body is being taken away. They deserve their moment to say, 'You know what? This is affecting us more than other people in this country,' " Jim told me. "But I also look at this as a needed wake-up call for a lot of people in our nation who have been content and who haven't really realized the risk that we all face as far as our civil rights, our fundamental rights, our human rights."

Jim, 55, wasn't always so outspoken.

Born in 1966, Jim entered the University of Cincinnati as a closeted freshman in 1984, just "starting to dip my toe into the world of being who I was" but "scared to death" of HIV, the still poorly understood virus ravaging the nation's gay community.

 

In part because of that fear, and in part because of the societal shame still associated with being gay, Jim "slammed that closet door closed" that same year. "I buried that part of me," he said.

He didn't open it again until years later, after he'd left his job as a high school German teacher to attend graduate school and started meeting other people who were out — including John, who was "so comfortable in his own skin as a gay man" that it unsettled, and excited, Jim.

The third time they hung out was New Year's Eve in 1992. From then on they were together, and they considered that night their anniversary.

For the next 20 years, they lived as partners do. Jim and John did corporate training and consulting, and worked at multiple companies together. There were ups and downs, as in all relationships, but they were happy. John's extroverted nature balanced Jim's quietness.

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