Jim Obergefell, who was at the center of a 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized marriage equality in the United States, announced Tuesday that he is running for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.
“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy by living in strong communities with excellent public schools, access to quality healthcare and well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we take care of,” Obergefell said in a statement.
Obergefell grew up in Sandusky, Ohio and attended the University of Cincinnati. He is now running there as a Democrat in the 89th House district, which is currently owned by Republican DJ Swearingen.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning, Obergefell said he returned home to Sandusky in June. He also previously lived in Cincinnati for several years and then in Washington, DC. He returned to Ohio, Columbus in 2019.
Obergefell became famous thanks to the tragedy. In 2011, his longtime partner John Arthur was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Two years later, they officially married in Maryland. But they got married just three months before Arthur’s death. The couple has been together for 22 years.
Obergefell’s home state of Ohio still prohibited same-sex marriage at the time, and so he could not be listed as the surviving spouse on Arthur’s death certificate. His decision to sue the state of Ohio set him on the path to changing US history.
The lawsuit was one of four filed in the Supreme Court in this group. Since his case number was the lowest, according to judicial tradition, everything was lumped together under the name of Obergefell.
And in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the Constitution guarantees the right to marriage equality.
Obergefell, 55, did not enter politics before the Supreme Court case. In 2015, he was described in a Washington Post profile as “a quiet real estate broker with little previous interest in political activities.”
On Tuesday, he told reporters he had no thoughts of running for office when he returned to Sandusky. But in late summer or early autumn, an idea appeared.
“Did I want to put myself in such a public arena?” Obergefell said he remembered how he thought. “I knew I wanted to do something to improve the situation.”
Due to its national profile and LGBTQ activism, Obergefell is likely to be able to raise significant funds for his campaign.