By Ethan Nichols, Staff Writer
Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, announced his candidacy for the Ohio House of Representives for a Sandusky-based seat. Widely known for the landmark case, Obergefell highlighted his advocacy for marriage equality in an interview with Newswire.
Obergefell is seeking an Ohio House seat which includes portions of Ottawa and Erie Counties. The seat is currently represented by Republican D.J. Swearingen.
Obergefell emphasized his support of the Ohio Equality Act as an important aspect of his candidacy. The Ohio Equality Act would add sexual orientation to Ohio anti-discrimination laws.
“We don’t really enjoy marriage equality equally,” Obergefell said. “Whether that’s being at risk of losing a job or being kicked out of an apartment… those things that the LGBT+ community faces in many places. So, in the statehouse, I will absolutely be in favor of the Ohio Equality Act.”
Obergefell and his husband John Arthur sued Ohio in 2013 after they traveled to Maryland and married on the tarmac of a Baltimore airport. Obergefell’s husband was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) in 2011. He died three months after their wedding at the age of 48.
The 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case stated that Ohio discriminated against couples who were lawfully married in other states by not recognizing same-sex marriages.
Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that the Constitution’s due process clause protected the right to marry as a fundamental liberty. This liberty, Kennedy explained, applies to both same- and opposite-sex marriages.
“When I look at this race and this district, equality and equal rights, that’s certainly a part of it. And with marriage equality, we have the right to marry through the United States, but in a lot of ways, we still aren’t equal,” Obergefell said.
Obergefell emphasized that his campaign will utilize his own experiences with inequality to fight for all underprivileged and marginalized groups.
“The fight for equality isn’t just for my community. I’ll be fighting for all marginalized people,” Obergefell said.
Obergefell supports restarting a Lake Erie Caucus in the state legislature. The Lake Erie Caucus would tackle issues of environmental degradation impacting the lake and surrounding area.
He also plans to advocate for public schools in his campaign. Currently, Ohio is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as 31st in the nation for the quality of its public schools.
“You deserve to have someone in the state house who will fight for you to create good jobs, great schools for all kids, access to quality health care for everyone and a clean, healthy Lake Erie,” Obergefell said. “It’s a big job, but I’ve been there. And I’m ready to be that state representative for you.”
Ohio’s 89th state house district hasn’t elected a Democrat since 2014.
In the district’s 2020 election, Republican D.J. Swearingen received 57.3% of the votes compared to Democrat Alexis Miller’s 42.7%.
In a video posted on Twitter, Obergefell admitted that his campaign would be difficult to win. However, he expressed hope at his campaign’s prospects.
“I took a history making fight for equal rights all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. I don’t mind being the underdog, and I’m not afraid,” he said.