The moving personal stories behind the landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which established the right of same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states.
While the major 2013 Supreme Court decision of United States v. Windsor had struck down key discriminatory provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, there remained some shadowy spaces still not defined for the equal protection of gay couples. In this affecting, eloquent account, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Cenziper (Washington Post) and the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, civil rights activist Obergefell, re-create the events and legal precedent that began in Cincinnati shortly after the Windsor decision, involving Obergefell and his longtime partner and husband, John Arthur, who died in 2013. Having defended such unpopular causes as abortion clinics and discrimination against gay employees, crusading Cincinnati lawyer Al Gerhardstein resolved to launch a federal lawsuit against the state of Ohio in order to allow Obergefell to be listed on Arthur’s death certificate as “surviving spouse,” although their marriage was not recognized by Ohio, where a referendum a decade earlier had banned the recognition of same-sex marriages. While the ban on anti-discrimination laws for gays was declared unconstitutional by the city of Cincinnati, the conservative 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in 1995, then again in 2014, refusing to recognize gay couples (who had married in another state) on death certificates and the birth certificates of their children. Essentially, the court forced Gerhardstein’s hand, and he petitioned the Supreme Court, which, astoundingly, took the case, narrowing the issue down to two questions: “whether the Constitution required all fifty states to issue marriage licenses to people of the same sex and whether states with bans should be required to recognize marriages that were legally performed elsewhere.” The authors ably create the suspense of anticipation and winnow the legal issues for lay readers.
Uplifting, well-written story of personal courage and political empowerment.