John M. Becker

Terminally Ill OH Man Marries Husband at MD Airport

Filed By John M. Becker | July 14, 2013 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality
Tags: gay marriage, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, Ohio, same-sex marriage

jim_john_ohio.pngJohn Arthur and Jim Obergefell have been together for more than 20 years. When the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Defense of Marriage Act last month, they decided that they wanted to marry.

But there were two major problems: the couple lives in Ohio -- which has a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment that makes same-sex marriages illegal -- and John is bedridden with a debilitating terminal disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which progressively robs its victims of voluntary muscle function.

John receives care from Crossroads Hospice, which gives its patients the gift of a "perfect day." According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, it's a chance for the dying to cross one last adventure off their bucket list:

One man asked to ride an Indian motorcycle for his 100th birthday; an extended family went on a bus tour to view Christmas lights; a woman flew to Florida to stick her feet in the sand one last time, then died three hours after she came home.

But for his perfect day, all John wanted was to finally be able to marry Jim, the man he loves.

As soon as the Supreme Court gave the green light to federal recognition for legal same-sex marriages, the couple began researching where they might be able to marry. Because John is immobile, they had to find a state that would allow Jim to obtain the marriage license by himself, then return with John for the wedding after the requisite waiting period.

They settled on Maryland, which allows just one partner to obtain the marriage license.

But the cost of such a trip was an additional barrier. While Crossroads Hospice was able to cover some costs, including the ambulance ride to and from the airport, the journey required the use of a special medical transport plane wide enough to fit John's stretcher. Chartering this kind of plane costs $12,700.

So Jim reached out to their family, friends, and social networks, asking if anyone "had any connections." But instead of responding with connections, people responded with cash: donations poured in, and the couple collected enough to cover the cost of the plane.

The Enquirer reports:

Obergefell flew to Baltimore on Tuesday, obtained the marriage license and flew back a few hours later.

And then on Thursday Arthur and Obergefell boarded a Lear jet at Lunken Airport with a nurse, two pilots trained in emergency medicine, and Arthur's aunt, Paulette Roberts, who'd been ordained to perform weddings with the hope that she'd someday get to do theirs.

They touched down in Baltimore at 10:39 a.m. The plane parked off the runway and the pilots stepped outside.

And then, in the cramped cabin of the jet, Obergefell seated next to Arthur's stretcher, the couple turned to each other and held hands. Roberts sat behind them and began to speak.

jim_john_marriage_ohio.pngAfter an incredibly moving 7 1/2-minute ceremony, John Arthur and Jim Obergefell were finally, legally husband and husband after 20 years, six months, and 11 days together. The couple flew back to Cincinnati, where friends and family greeted them on the tarmac to celebrate.

John had lived long enough to see his perfect day. He said, "I'm very proud to be an American and be able to openly share my love for the record. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world."

Watch the Enquirer's incredibly moving video report about John and Jim below. Fair warning, though: you will probably cry like a baby. I know I did.

Think marriage is an outmoded, assimilationist institution? Relatively unimportant on the spectrum of LGBT rights issues? Not worth focusing on or fighting for?

Tell that to couples like John Arthur and Jim Obergefell, or Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, who waited for decades to legally marry and were able to just in time. Or tell that to someone like Derence Kernek, whose beloved partner Ed Watson died in 2011 before they ever had the chance.

Marriage matters, folks.

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