Love Wins: The Promise that Won the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality

Love Wins: The Promise that Won the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality

xlove-wins.jpg.pagespeed.ic.s245CKzsAfLove Wins: The Promise That Won The Landmark Case for Marriage Equality by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell

Love Wins is a both a beautiful love story and an inspirational story of a David and Goliath legal battle that changed the course of US legal history.

It’s the story of what happened after Jim Obergefell fell in love with John Arthur, but it’s also the story of how much impact individuals and those in the law community can have by their small and large actions that can affect change for thousands, possibly millions, of people and even change the legal landscape of a whole nation.

Jim and John lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, a place they loved even though at this time it wasn’t the most ideal place for a gay couple to be living. It was known for its conservative and often outmoded laws where those in the gay community were still severely discriminated against. A person could lose their job simply for being gay and this was as recently as the 1990s.

lovewinsWhen John Arthur became sick with ALS, a crippling neurodegenerative disease that would certainly result in death, the couple thought seriously about marriage. But the state of Ohio didn’t recognise same sex marriage and after John’s death, Jim would not be recognised as John’s spouse.

By the time John and Jim determined to marry in the state of Maryland where same-sex marriage had been recognised, John was so ill that he was unable to walk and interstate travel by the regular modes was impossible. So in a dramatic turn of events, the couple flew in a small plane to Maryland and and in a beautiful scene, exchanged vows on the plane, with John’s beloved aunt Paulette officiating (pictured below right). Their buoyant mood couldn’t last though. On their return to Ohio Jim discovered that after John’s death, their union would remain unrecognised – according to John’s death certificate, in the eyes of state law, their union would be non-existent.

lovewins3At this point, civil rights lawyer, Al Gerhardstein (pictured below left with Jim Obergefell) found out about their predicament. Gerhardstein had long worked on behalf of unpopular causes in Ohio, most notably abortion clinics and LGBT cases. Gerhardstein was eager to challenge the state on behalf of Jim so that he could be listed on John’s death certificate in a move that would set a precedent for future cases.

This led to the landmark case – Obergefell v. Hodges – that resulted in the United States Supreme Courting ruling that state-level bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

lovewins2While this is a hugely significant book in the area of civil, and particularly gay rights, it’s also a moving and intriguing human interest story of Obergefell and his now deceased partner John Arthur, that takes us right back to their childhoods and early courtship. And another human interest running alongside Jim and John’s case is that of the lawyer Gerhardstein who had spent years working on such cases, with his own gay brother having experienced discrimination too. It also touches of the plight of couples throughout the country – many of them with children – whose marriages were unrecognised.

There’s much about the law and the detailed legal proceedings that’s made accessible through the personal story and the suspense behind the events, combined with the skilful writing from Obergefell and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist Debbie Cenziper so that this book will appeal to all readers interested in this most timely issue – especially here in Australia right now.

To find out more or purchase a copy of Love Wins click here



In June 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law in all fifty states in a decision as groundbreaking as Roe v Wade. At the heart of the Obergefell v Hodges case is a story of law and love – and a promise made to a dying man who wanted to know how he would be remembered.Twenty years ago, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur fell in love in Cincinnati, Ohio, a place where gays were routinely picked up by police and fired from their jobs. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had to provide married gay couples all the benefits offered to straight couples. Jim and John – who was dying of the crippling neurodegenerative disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – flew to Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal. But back home, Ohio refused to recognise their union, or even list Jim’s name on John’s death certificate.Then they met Al Gerhardstein, a courageous small-town attorney who had spent nearly three decades advocating for civil rights and who now saw an opening for the cause that few others had before him. Against overwhelming odds, this grieving man and his nuggety lawyer introduced the most important gay rights case in US history and won a David and Goliath battle that inspired the rest of the world.
Jim Obergefell
About the author

Jim Obergefell

Jim Obergefell was born and raised in Sandusky, Ohio. The named plaintiff in the landmark case of Obergefell vs. Hodges, Jim is one of thirty-one plaintiffs in four consolidated cases but is seen as the ‘historic figure’ for marriage equality in his hometown of Cincinatti. A modest man, Obergefell calls himself an ‘accidental activist’.

Books by Jim Obergefell

Debbie Cenziper
About the author

Debbie Cenziper

Debbie Cenziper is a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist with The Washington Post. Having met Jim and John twenty years ago, Cenziper is uniquely suited to tell the story of their battle for marriage equality.

Books by Debbie Cenziper


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