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John Arthur, Terminally-Ill Man Who Challenged Ohio's Gay Marriage Ban, Has Died at 48


John Arthur, who in July flew to Maryland with his partner of 20 years, Jim Obergfell, so that they could marry on the airport tarmac before Arthur's ALS, a progressive neurological disease that robs patients of their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe, became too difficult, has died, reports.

Mr. Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2011, and his terminal illness played a prominent role in the couple’s decision to marry and in the ensuing legal battle. He and Obergefell had been a couple since 1992 but decided to marry after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision striking down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Following their marriage, they decided to file a lawsuit challenging Ohio's same-sex marriage ban.

A few days after their wedding the couple were contacted by civil-rights attorney Al Gerhardstein, who had been working on challenges to Ohio’s marriage ban. Several days later they filed a lawsuit in federal court in Cincinnati against the state and the city of Cincinnati, claiming that failure to recognize their marriage violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, because Ohio recognized other marriages performed outside the state that Ohio itself banned, such as marriages between first cousins or minors.

Mr. Arthur’s terminal illness allowed the case to move more quickly through the court. It also allowed Gerhardstein to argue that the couple would face “irreparable harm” if Mr. Arthur was listed as single on his death certificate. Additionally, Mr. Arthur’s family plot at Spring Grove Cemetery is limited to direct descendants and their spouses, so the question of recognizing their marriage also was likely to influence where he was buried and whether his partner could someday be buried next to him.

In July, Federal Judge Timothy Black issued a temporary order requiring that Arthur be listed as married on his death certificate and Obergefell be named his surviving spouse.

Arthur was 48 years old. Our thoughts go out to Jim Obergfell, and their friends and family, and we thank Arthur for his courage.

Watch the inspiring story of their wedding (autoplay), AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. My heart goes out to Jim, and I remember John with gratitude.

    Posted by: ArchiLaw | Oct 22, 2013 9:34:06 AM

  2. Rest In Peace valiant Knight! Much metta and many merits to you and your husband.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Oct 22, 2013 9:49:39 AM

  3. And SHAME, SHAME, SHAME on America for forcing people who are on their death beds to have to find ways to travel to other parts of the country just to get married like any other CITIZEN could do in the OWN HOME! SHAME!

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Oct 22, 2013 9:52:21 AM

  4. Rest in Peace.

    Posted by: Jeff | Oct 22, 2013 10:22:59 AM

  5. God bless them both, and comfort Jim and John's family.

    Posted by: Onnyjay | Oct 22, 2013 10:28:21 AM

  6. Rest In Peace, John Arthur. Forgive our ignorant society, that cannot recognize that love is a gift from God and no one, no government should ever deny that right to any couple who wishes to marry. Condolences to your family and your husband, Jim Obergfell, his family and all of your friends.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Oct 22, 2013 10:33:24 AM

  7. Rest in peace. And my thoughts go out to his husband and family.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Oct 22, 2013 11:13:20 AM

  8. RIP Sir

    I love my boyfriend, whom I want to marry dearly - and the thought of him out of my life is something I rarely think of.

    I'm sorry it had to end this way for you two.

    <3 M

    Posted by: mA Mc | Oct 22, 2013 11:39:04 AM

  9. RIP. The term hero is reserved for those who earn it, and this man earned it. RIP HERO.

    Posted by: DC Insider | Oct 22, 2013 1:12:55 PM

  10. They brought beauty to loss by fighting for their dignity and equality when they were at their most vulnerable. Bravo to them, and shame on Ohio for making them have to go through this additional stress as John faced death.

    RIP, John. Condolences to John's husband, Jim.

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 22, 2013 1:16:50 PM

  11. Rest In Peace John. May your love for each other transcend this life.

    Posted by: Jay | Oct 22, 2013 1:25:25 PM

  12. When ever I see the journey of John and Jim, I am moved by the love that drove them.
    I am so happy that they will be able to rest side by side for eternity, because of their courage and also because of Judge Black who stood to be counted and validated their vows.

    Posted by: Jerry Callender | Oct 22, 2013 3:55:37 PM

  13. A Love Supreme.

    Posted by: kodiak | Oct 22, 2013 6:55:48 PM

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