Ohio man, whose same-sex marriage in Maryland sparked a legal case, has died

John Arthur's lawsuit could have broad implications for gay couples

  • Jim Obergefell and John Arthur married on a medical jet at BWI in July. Arthur's ALS made it difficult to travel, but they had to make the trip because Ohio doesn't allow same-sex marriage.
Jim Obergefell and John Arthur married on a medical jet at BWI… (Photo courtesy of Jim Obergefell )
October 22, 2013|By Tim Swift, The Baltimore Sun

John Arthur, a terminally ill Ohio man who chartered a private medical jet to Maryland to get married, died Tuesday, according to his lawyer. He was 47.

Spurred by a recent ruling on same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court, Arthur and his partner, Jim Obergefell, were married on a runway at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on July 11. Friends and family funded the trip because Ohio prohibits same-sex marriage and Arthur, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, was too ill to travel normally.

When Arthur and Obergefell returned with their Maryland marriage license to Ohio, they sued their home state so they could be buried next to each other in Arthur's family plot. The legal case — which has since been expanded to include other states — could have broader implications for same-sex couples.

"Even as John faced his last days, he was fighting for the rights of all same-sex couples," his lawyer, Al Gerharstein, said in a statement. "Part of John's legacy will be the difference he has already made in the struggle for marriage equality."

In July, U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black sided with Arthur and Obergefell, granting a temporary restraining order against Ohio's 2004 law banning the recognition of same-sex marriages. The immediate practical impact, lawyers said, is that death records would reflect the marriage.

Funeral home director Robert Grunn said arrangements were pending. Grunn, who also is a plaintiff in the case, said the legal case will continue after Arthur's death.


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