Jim Obergefell  and John Arthur had been together for two wonderful decades in 2011 when Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurological disease that paralyzes the body. It soon became clear that their time together was running short.
"I realized in 2013 that there was no better way for me to keep my promise to love, honor and protect him than to care for him 24 hours a day and marry the man I love," Obergefell explained. "And there's no better way to honor my late husband than to stand here today and tell our story."
Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the case currently being considered by the Supreme Court of the United States that could lead to nationwide marriage equality, shared his inspiring story on Wednesday at a press conference at St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's office in Room 200 at City Hall. 
Organized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and PROMO, the nation's largest and Missouri's statewide LGBT advocacy organizations, the conference included Mayor Slay, Stephen Peters, HRC National Press Secretary; Sherrill Wayland, Deputy Director of PROMO Fund; and Missouri marriage equality trailblazers Richard Eaton and John Durnell, and Bruce Yampolsky and Terry Garrett. 
"We are dedicated to making the city of St. Louis a better place for all people regardless of who you love," said Slay, mentioning the city's perfect score on the HRC's Municipal Equality Index and the city's successful challenge of Missouri's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage after wedding for gay couples in his office last June. 
"Same-sex marriage is legal in a few counties in Missouri, but not in the entire state," Slay continued. "Jim, that's why your case is essential to all of us. We are on the right side of history. This is a human rights issue, an equality issue and an economic issue." Obergefellmarriage
Obergefell  is currently on a  nationwide tour with HRC to mobilize and organize fair-minded Americans around the Supreme Court marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, due later this month.
By 2012, Arthur was extremely ill and could no longer walk, Obergefell recalled, and when the Supreme Court struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act the following year, the Ohio natives wasted no time in getting married. 
"We had to charter a  special medical jet and get married on an airport tarmac in Baltimore," said Obergefell. "At the time, Maryland was one of the few states to allow marriage equality." 
The couple returned to Ohio and filed a lawsuit demanding the state recognize their marriage. They won, but sadly, Arthur would succumb to his illness just three months after the nuptials.  What's more, the state of Ohio appealed the ruling saying they will issue an amended death certificate — listing Arthur as single — if they ultimately win the lawsuit.
"When my husband John died, I never thought I'd have to fight all the way to the United States Supreme Court to defend our marriage," Obergefell explained. "But if I hadn't started that fight, I wouldn't have realized that that battle will continue after our ruling is released in a few short weeks." 
While Obergefell is confident that the high court will deliver a positive ruling in favor of marriage equality, he admits much work remains to be done citing the need for fully inclusive LGBT nondiscrimination protections and transgender rights. 
"Today I am here to make a promise. And it is a promise that is as sacred as the one I made to John on that airport tarmac," he said.  "I promise to keep up the fight for the LGBT community until full equality is fully achieved." 

Calling his experience at the Supreme Court surreal, Obergefell is keenly aware that his name will likely be recorded in history books and considers it a unique honor. He has also developed a bond with many of the other plaintiff couples throughout the trying process.

"What has got me through this is my relationship with John and my desire to fight for that and protect it - and really, to live up to my promises, my commitments to him," said Obergefell. "I can't think of anything better that I could possibly do than to fight for our relationship."


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