On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. It was a historic decision that marked a turning point for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States.
Fast forward seven years, and a lot has changed. The Supreme Court is very different, and another landmark decision is pending, this time regarding federal abortion rights.
Leaked draft notice suggests court ready to overturn Roe vs. Wadewhich could have repercussions on other rights, in particular the right to same-sex marriage.
Civil rights activist Jim Obergefell was the lead plaintiff in the 2015 case, and he joined All things Considered to share his perspective on the uncertain future, and how his case is more closely related to Roe vs. Wade than you think.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
On the story behind his initial trial
“On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in its ruling in USA v Windsor. I proposed to my partner John, and he was dying of ALS. We were in our twentieth year together as a couple. We ended up getting married on a medical jet in Maryland and living in Ohio. When we learned that John’s death certificate would be incorrectly filled out when he died, saying he was single, we decided to sue the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati to demand recognition of our marriage. legal out of state on John’s death certificate. at the time of his death. This is the case that got me all the way to the Supreme Court.
His first reaction to the leaked draft opinion on Roe v. wade
“Well, my immediate reaction was, what a dark day for the people of our country and their privacy, and the right to control their bodies and make their medical decisions free from government influence or interference. So that was my first reaction But then reading the draft, in more detail, to see some of the rationale, some of the rationale for this ruling that Judge Alito is using, honestly scares me for equality of marriage lose capacity so that it is not criminalized? There are things in this leaked decision that concern me about so many things that affect the LGBTQ+ community, as well as interracial marriage and more.
On the link between the judgment on abortion and the future of same-sex marriage
“My concern in this disclosed ruling, and why I worry about marriage equality, is the language of this ruling, which says ‘unenumerated rights’. [These are] the rights we enjoy as Americans that are not specifically written verbatim in the Constitution, the right to privacy, the right to marry. This leaked ruling says, “Well, if these unlisted rights will continue to be what we consider fundamental rights, then they must be based on our nation’s history and tradition.” This is a very dangerous thing, because marriage equality is only seven years old, not even seven years old. It’s not a long story. It is certainly not the tradition of our nation. So this language, talking about unlisted rights being based on history and tradition, that concerns me.”
On the reaction within the LGBTQ+ community
“There’s definitely a widespread fear. But it’s also one of those things that I see my work in right now to help educate people, to help them understand why they should be worried, why they should be afraid and why they shouldn’t just think, ‘Well, that’s really not going to happen.’ It could happen, and people need to believe it could happen. So there’s fear, but people also think, ‘Well, what can we do?’ And what we can do is get involved at the state level. We’re really going to have to rely on the states to uphold and protect, to affirm some of these rights that are being threatened by the Supreme Court. I think most of ‘between us, many of us in the community, we’re looking at this at the state level, realizing how important this has always been, and how important it will be, or could be in the future .”
This story was reported by Mary Louise Kelly, produced by Michael Levitt and edited by Courtney Dorning. It was adapted for the web by Manuela Lopez Restrepo.