Same-sex marriage plaintiffs say fight against discrimination will continue

Standing in the rotunda of the Indiana Statehouse, Jim Obergefell, named plaintiff in the marriage equality case currently before the Supreme Court of the United States, said a victory in the country’s highest court will not end the battle against discrimination.

“I fight for an end to discrimination, nothing more and nothing less,” Obergefell said. “Here in Indianapolis, I fight for an America that lives up to its promise of liberty and justice for all.”

Obergefell visited the Circle City June 5 with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. The HRC and Obergefell are visiting cities around the United States to bring attention to LGBT issues.

Stephen Peters, spokesman for HRC, told a small gathering of supporters that a decision in favor of marriage equality from the Supreme Court will not be the end of the fight. Members of the LGBT community will still not be protected against discrimination in housing and employment, he said. The HRC will continue to work for full protection for the LGBT community at the federal level.

“We’ll fight and we’ll win by telling our stories,” Peters said.

Also speaking at the event was Karen Vaughn-Kajmowicz who, along with her wife, Tammy, was a plaintiff in one of the same-sex marriage lawsuits filed in Indiana that helped overturn the state’s prohibition on marriage between individuals of the same gender.

Afterward, the couple said they were confident the Supreme Court would rule in favor of same-sex couples although they were worried about the potential consequences if the nine justices do not recognize marriage equality.

But if they get the ruling they are expecting, the women echoed Obergefell about what comes next.

“It’s not over just because we’re married, that’s not the end of the fight,” Karen Vaughn-Kajmowicz said. “Until there’s equality for everybody and it’s on the books that if you don’t put forth that equality to someone, there are repercussions for that, it’s not over.”

Obergefell is the named plaintiff in the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, coming from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. In November 2014, the 6th Circuit broke the string of victories for same-sex marriage proponents by ruling the state laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee barring same-sex marriage do not violate the U.S. Constitution.  

Obergefell and his late husband, John Arthur, won in federal court to have Ohio recognize their marriage. Two months after Arthur, who had been suffering from ALS, died, the Buckeye state appealed.

“To this day, my home state wants nothing more than to erase our relationship, our more than 20 years as a couple and our marriage and prevent me from being memorialized along side the man I love in his family plot,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell described himself and Arthur as lucky. They were never evicted from their home, fired from their jobs, refused service in a business, or physically attacked for being gay. However, he said, many other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals cannot say the same thing.

“I am here to make a promise, it is a promise as sacred as the one I made to John,” Obergefell said. “I promise to keep up the fight for the LGBT community until full equality is truly a reality. I promise to work with HRC and our community for a fully inclusive comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination bill. Until that day comes, we are leaving far too many people behind us.”  

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