Ohio Same-Sex Couple Granted Right to Be Buried Together


"We still want our government to say, 'you matter; you exist.'"

On July 11, spouses James Obergefell and John Arthur took a 90-minute flight from their home in Cincinnati, Ohio to an airport tarmac in the state of Maryland to marry, and then turn around and fly immediately back north to Ohio after the event. The two men were married in the privacy of a privately-chartered jet before their small audience of the pilot, videographer, and officiant of the wedding.

The expedited ceremony was issued on account of Arthur's limited remaining days of life. Two years ago he was diagnosed with the fatally-progressive neurodegenerative disease called ALS (better known to most as Lou Gehrig's Disease), which, as of now, has no known cure. In expectation of the man's imminent death, the couple started planning their burial arrangements alongside Arthur's family in Spring Grove Cemetery. But unfortunately, Ohio law and Arthur's grandfather's previously-stipulated documentation said that only direct descendants and spouses could be buried in the family plot. The men who have lain by each other's side for over 20 years feared they would not be able to lie by each other for eternity as the state of Ohio still does not recognize same-sex marriages.

However, in a hearing last Monday afternoon between the newlyweds and the Ohio governor, attorney general, and doctor responsible for approving the couple's death certificates, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Tim Black made history: he argued that the state of Ohio should recognize the same-sex marriage and designate Obergefell as Arthur's official spouse for the couple's burial purposes.

The ruling was made based on the argument that if Ohio recognizes opposite-sex marriages from other states, including some outlawed in-state such as first cousins or underage pairs, then it should also recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Would you look at that logic! Awesome.

Though Judge Black made clear that this was a case-specific occurrence and will only apply to Obergefell and Arthur's situation, it breeds hopeful thoughts of a beginning to more equal rights in Ohio and a reversion back to the voting booths for gay marriage rights across the state.

And, just in case my rendering of this story couldn't bring you to tears in my prose, take a look at this video chronicled by the Enquirer of the happy couple's story and wedding ceremony. It's absolutely gorgeous. I am so happy for these two: