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

I met my husband a year and a half later. We've now been married more than four years. Most people hardly blink when I say "my husband" now, or their eyes warm slightly, acknowledging their approval. Gay marriage, thanks to Obergefell, has become normal for many, maybe most.

And yet, suddenly, it feels fragile again — like my marriage could be ripped away despite it being central to who I am. I had heard from Jim how wonderful it felt to finally gain the right to marry, so I asked him how he felt now.

"Overwhelmed," he said. "Scared. Terrified. Disillusioned. Disheartened."

Were the court to apply Alito's rationale to same-sex marriage, married Americans could find themselves in a position where they would be legally married in one state but not in another, Jim said, just as women under Alito's opinion would be able to have an abortion in one state but not in another. Couples would once again have to fly to another state to get married.

"We're supposed to be part of 'We the people,' 'One nation, with liberty and justice for all,' " Jim told me. "Well, to argue that something as fundamental to humanity as family is subject to a border, that is not one nation."

Jim thinks John would scoff, likely with a clever but genuine quip, at the cruelness of the threatened backtracking. He misses his husband's wit and humor, especially now.

"This week, to be honest, I missed him desperately," Jim said. "It's been a rough week and I just miss having that person who I could snuggle up against or lean on, talk to, no matter how horrible things are, no matter how challenging the world is. I miss having that person who was there and could make things better just by the virtue of being there."

It's been hard without John, particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic, Jim said. Last summer he moved back to his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, to be close to his five siblings and their families.

There's also been purpose, though. Jim never lost the fight that built in him when he and John fought all the way to the Supreme Court. He remains an outspoken LGBTQ advocate, and he's running for a seat in the Ohio House.

John would be proud, Jim thinks.

I know the feeling.


I've watched over the last four years as my husband, Aaron, has moved to the U.S., moved across the country with me, found a good job and worked hard and thrived. Our relationship was largely long-distance before we moved to L.A. in April 2020 — the early, scary days of the pandemic — but here we finally settled into our very own apartment together and had the chance to grow as a couple.

Those who would want to expand on Alito's reasoning will say our right to marry wasn't spelled out explicitly in the Constitution, or that such a right isn't "deeply rooted" in our nation's history. They'll say the legitimacy of our union should be left up to state legislators.

Even the suggestion that these arguments are applicable to my marriage, to my love for my husband, is — and I don't use this word lightly — infuriating.

It's a rage that I'd hoped queer Americans my age and younger would be largely spared, after LGBTQ pioneers before us suffered through it for most or all of their lives.

Jim said he has been thinking about those pioneers this past week and imagining "how tired they are, how disgusted they are."

He said he also has been thinking about all the younger LGBTQ people who, like me, have told him over the years how profoundly improved their lives have been thanks to his and John's winning them the right to marry.

"I've seen what a difference it makes in young people's lives when they see that they matter, they see that they have opportunities, that they can have the same dreams as a straight kid," Jim told me. "I've seen how important and how vital to our nation this has been, and to now realize how at risk it is? I keep using the word 'terrified,' but I'm terrified."

All across the country, there are people — women, people of color, LGBTQ people — who are wondering anew whether the rights they have won in recent decades are to be snatched away because they aren't "deeply rooted" in this nation's misogynistic, racist and homophobic past.

That, for Jim, is devastating. But, he said, it's also power.

"There are countless people who believe in our nation and the promise of our nation — a nation that truly lives up to 'we the people.' And we will continue to fight."

©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus