Plaintiff in same-sex marriage case to speak at IU Maurer

Jim Obergefell, whose legal challenge to Ohio’s marriage laws led to the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave same-sex couples the right to marry, will speak at two events next week at Indiana University, the school announced Tuesday.

Obergefell will speak from noon to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 2 in the Moot Court Room of the Maurer School of Law, and from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in Alumni Hall of the Indiana Memorial Union. The events, both free and open to the public, are sponsored by Union Board, the Maurer School of Law and the IU GLBT Alumni Association.

Obergefell, a Cincinnati real estate broker, married his partner of 20 years, John Arthur, in 2013 in Maryland. Arthur died from Lou Gehrig’s disease a few months later. Obergefell went to court to challenge Ohio’s refusal to list him as surviving spouse on Arthur’s death certificate.

“Most students are aware the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last summer, but very few students know who led the fight for marriage equality,” said Matthew Mervis, director of special topics for the Union Board.

“Jim Obergefell is a hero to tens of millions of Americans for successfully taking the fight for marriage equality all the way to the Supreme Court, and we wanted to let Jim share his experiences with the IU community. Thanks to his tireless efforts, states can no longer deny loving couples the right to marry simply because of their sexual orientation. Union Board is honored to join with the Maurer School of Law and the IU GLBT Alumni Association to sponsor this important opportunity.”

The Maurer event will be a conversation, moderated by associate professor of law Steve Sanders, who will ask Obergefell about his personal story and his experience being a plaintiff. Sanders co-authored the “People’s Brief” in support of Obergefell and his co-plaintiffs. Obergefell delivered the brief, signed by more than 200,000 people, to the court in March 2015.

In the Union Board lecture Feb. 3, Obergefell will tell his story to an audience from IU and the Bloomington community.

Obergefell was one of 23 people invited to sit with first lady Michelle Obama during President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address earlier this month.

“Jim considers himself an accidental activist,” a White House statement said, “one who became entwined in a political statement larger than himself – a statement of equality and dignity that Americans have been fighting for since this nation’s founding – and he now remains committed to ensuring the civil rights for all Americans.”

Union Board is the governing body of the Indiana Memorial Union and the largest student programming organization on the IU Bloomington campus. The board, made up of students, plans and sponsors lectures, performances, films, special events and other activities.

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