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Ohioan Honored Guest at State of the Union Address

Jim Obergefell (center) of Cincinnati will be a guest of honor at the State of the Union address. (Elvert Barnes/Flickr)
Jim Obergefell (center) of Cincinnati will be a guest of honor at the State of the Union address. (Elvert Barnes/Flickr)
January 12, 2016

CINCINNATI, Ohio – An Ohioan who was a key player in the fight for marriage equality will be a guest of honor as President Barack Obama delivers his last State of the Union address tonight (Tues.).

Jim Obergefell of Cincinnati will join other invited guests to sit alongside First Lady Michelle Obama. He was the lead plaintiff in the June 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage.

Obergefell said he will be honored and privileged to be there, on behalf of others fighting for LGBT rights.

"I'm going for me, I'm going for my husband John, but I'm also going on behalf of all the other plaintiffs and the attorneys in the Supreme Court case," he said, "not to mention all those other people who came before me, who helped us get to where we are now."

In 2013, Obergefell married his terminally-ill partner, John Arthur, in Maryland. Ohio would not allow the couple to list Obergefell as a surviving spouse on Arthur's death certificate, and Obergefell sued. The case was eventually among those heard by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, with a final ruling that all states must recognize same-sex marriages.

Reflecting on the past several years, Obergefell noted there have been tremendous victories for the LGBT community - from the president appointing several openly gay ambassadors to the passage a ban in Cincinnati on so-called "conversion therapy" for minors.

However, he believes the fight will continue to ensure LGBT individuals are treated equally as any other American.

"There have been so many efforts to pass religious-refusal bills, other efforts to repeal non-discrimination policies," he said. "So, I really see it as a continued fight to expand federal protections for the LGBT community."

And Obergefell is hopeful 2016 brings passage of the Equality Act, which would establish protections against discrimination in employment, housing, public access, education and other matters based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH