Gerhardstein & Branch filed Obergefell v. Hodges on July 19, 2013. The case will be heard in the United States Supreme Court this term along with Henry v. Hodges, also from our office, and four other cases from the Sixth Circuit.
Jim Obergefell (pictured on right) met the love of his life, John Arthur, in 1992 in Cincinnati. The couple made a life together here—working, renovating homes, collecting art, traveling, and enjoying time with friends and family.
John was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2011. After the Windsor decision striking down part of the federal government’s discriminatory law against same-sex married couples in 2013, the couple decided to make their commitment official. On July 11, 2013, through the loving efforts of their friends and family, Jim and John were able to fly on a medically equipped airplane to Maryland. While the plane sat on the tarmac and John was on a hospital gurney inside the plane, they were married in a ceremony officiated by John’s aunt. The couple sought the comfort of knowing that when John died his death certificate would not indicate that he was unmarried. John wanted the last legal record of his life to reflect his love and commitment to Jim. The district court granted the Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction, and after John Arthur died on October 22, 2013, his death certificate was issued stating that he was married and that his “surviving spouse” is Jim Obergefell. The district court was overturned by the Sixth Circuit, and therefore John’s death certificate stands to be amended, potentially erasing Jim from this important record.
Jim carries John with him in his heart and knows that John is watching over him as he continues this legal struggle they started together—all the way to the Supreme Court!
David Brian Michener (pictured on left) and William Herbert Ives were committed partners for 18 years. They adopted three children and raised them together in Cincinnati. The family owned a second home in Delaware where they enjoyed summers together near the beach. On July 22, 2013, the couple was married in Delaware shortly after same-sex marriage was authorized by the Delaware legislature. Just over one month after the wedding, William unexpectedly died of natural causes. He left behind David and the couple’s three kids, ages 13, 10, and 3. In the wake of this terrible loss, David Michener joined the lawsuit already started by Jim Obergefell and James Arthur. He sought a death certificate for William that reflected the true nature of William’s identity. Now, the ultimate fate of that death certificate, which does now read that William was married to David, is in the Supreme Court’s hands. The couple’s three children and David hope that the Court rules that the State of Ohio must recognize loving families like theirs.
Robert Grunn is the owner of a funeral home in Cincinnati. In his capacity as a funeral director, he is responsible for submitting death certificate information to the state. Robert joined the Obergefell lawsuit as a plaintiff so that he could be secure in his decision to afford grieving married same-sex couples the dignity and respect they deserve by acknowledging their marriages when reporting deaths to the state. As a gay man himself, Robert is excited that the Supreme Court will be deciding the important issue of marriage equality this term.
The Henry-Rogers family welcomed their first child, a son, to the world in 2014. When Brittani Henry was pregnant with their son, the couple sued because they wanted to ensure that both of their son’s parents would have equal status as his parents in their beloved home-state of Ohio. The Henry-Rogers couple believes that Ohio’s denial of the true nature of their family demeans and harms them and their son, and they hope the Supreme Court will put a stop to that harm by their son’s first birthday.
The Yorksmith Family
Pam and Nicole Yorksmith were married on October 14, 2008, in California. They combined their last names “York” and “Smith” so that when they had children the whole family would share the same name. In 2010, Nicole gave birth to their first son. In June 2014, the family welcomed their second son to the world. The Yorksmith couple has arranged various legal protections for their family that an opposite-sex married couple does not have to do such as establishing medical powers of attorney so that if one of them is sick hospitals will hopefully recognize them as family. The Yorksmith couple is excited that the Supreme Court of the United States is taking up this case because they hope the Court will rule that their marriage deserves the same dignity and protection as opposite-sex marriages.
From the very beginning of their relationship, Kelly Noe and Kelly McCracken discussed having children. They were married in May 2011 in Massachusetts, and two years later, Kelly Noe was pregnant with their first child. Their daughter was born in June of 2014 in Ohio. As a result of this lawsuit, their daughter’s birth certificate does list both of her parents, but because of the Sixth Circuit’s decision, the birth certificate is threatened to be amended to remove Kelly McCracken’s name. The Noe-McCracken family hopes the Supreme Court will overturn the Sixth Circuit’s decision so that their baby’s family will be afforded the same treatment as a family headed by an opposite-sex married couple.
Marriage equality is important to the Noe-McCracken family because their little girl deserves legal recognition of both of her mothers who love her dearly.
Joe Vitale and Rob Talmas have been in a happy and committed relationship since they met in 1997, and were married in New York in 2011. They both have large, supportive families and they always wanted children of their own. In 2013, their beloved son was born. Joe and Rob were there in the Ohio hospital to welcome him into the world, and they have never wanted to leave his side since. To the couple’s surprise, after they took their baby home to New York and the adoption was final, Ohio refused to recognize both of them on their son’s birth certificate like they would do for an opposite-sex married couple. Ohio asked them to choose only one dad. The Vitale-Talmas family is hopeful that the Supreme Court will see that both parents should be recognized on the birth certificate because the Vitale-Talmas child should not be singled out by Ohio due to the gender of his parents.