Dying Man Gets His Wish: To Marry His Partner of 20 Years
As wishes go, it seems an easy one to make a reality: for a man to marry the person he loves.
For one Ohio same-sex couple, the odds were decidedly not in their favor, which makes their triumph over adversity all the more heartwarming.
John Arthur and Jim Obergefell live in Ohio state, where a 2004 constitutional ban means they cannot lawfully marry. Moreover, John suffers from a debilitating terminal condition called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has robbed him of muscle control and left him bedridden.
Fortunately for John, he now resides at Crossroads Hospice, a facility that offers palliative care for those with terminal conditions. Not just a regular hospice, however, Crossroads prides itself on offering each of its residents the chance at a perfect day through its Gift of a Day program, wherein hospice staff endeavor to do everything they can to make their residents’ special day the most memorable it can be.
One man asked to ride an Indian motorcycle for his 100th birthday, the facility notes, while another woman took a flight to Florida to stick her feet in the sand one last time.
John, who has been at the facility since March of this year, decided last month that he wanted to marry his partner Jim after the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s Section 3 and therein, finally, made it so that same-sex marriages could be granted equal federal recognition in terms of rights and benefits.
A problem remained, however: that of how to obtain a marriage license when John cannot be easily transported. Some states like New York require both partners to be present and so despite its proximity, New York was out of the question.
States like Washington and California — where you’ll remember same-sex marriage is now once again legal despite last ditch efforts to curtail equality — were simply too far away.
However, Maryland, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2012 and allows just one partner to apply for the license, was calculated to be within reach.
After deciding on the venue, then, the next problem the couple and Crossroads staff faced was the cost.
Crossroads Hospice was able to dig deep and cover a great many of the costs, including John’s ride in an ambulance to and from the airport, but they soon realized the journey would require a special medical transport plane wide enough to fit John’s stretcher — that alone carries a $12,700 price tag.
Once again, the generosity of the human animal revealed itself and donations from the couples’ family, friends and even acquaintances through social networks, were soon enough to cover the expense.
Arrangements were made and, last Thursday, the couple were married.
Here is an excerpt from Cincinnati.com’s report on that very special moment:
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, [Jim] Obergefell seated next to [John] Arthur’s stretcher, the couple turned to each other and held hands.
Obergefell spoke, choking back tears. They exchanged rings. Roberts pronounced them husband and husband, and Obergefell leaned over to Arthur and kissed him.
“Let us all rejoice,” Roberts said, as she leaned forward to hug them both. “I love you very much.”
“That was beautiful,” Arthur responded, his voice thickened and slowed by his disease. “And thank you for including the word ‘damn.’”
Watch John and Jim’s story unfold below, though be warned that crying may be unavoidable:
You can read more on the background on this story over at Cincinnati.com.
John and Jim’s fight for their marriage illustrates in concrete terms the harms that even post-DOMA Section 3 persist in the United States by virtue of the fact that not every state will recognize or perform same-sex marriages.
Efforts have been touted to launch a repeal of Ohio’s marriage equality ban, though such plans lack the unified support of all LGBT rights groups in the state, some of whom feel that public opinion is not yet strong enough in favor to make the change.
For couples like Jim and John, who may, however, not have the good fortune that our married couple had, such efforts cannot come soon enough.
Image credit: Enquirer video under fair use.