Terminally Ill Man Marries Partner on Airport Tarmac
After 20 years of commitment, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur have finally married. This union could not have been timelier as Arthur may not have much time left.
"[Arthur] is bedridden with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a progressive neurological disease that robs patients of their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe," Cincinnati.com writes. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, this degenerative disorder kills most patients within two to five years. John was diagnosed 26 months ago.
With the Supreme Court’s ruling, striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the couple decided it was finally time to tie the knot but there was just one problem: marriage for same-sex couples has been banned in their home state of Ohio since 2004.
"Health insurance was an ongoing issue for the couple," Cincinnati.com reported. "They had to prepare powers of attorney and other legal documents designed to circumvent the kinds of problems every unmarried couple fears."
The couple considered driving to New York as it is the closest state where they could legally marry. They also considered California, Washington and parts of New England. But the distance was too great, and Arthur had been bedridden since March, unable to leave his home.
They decided on Maryland, as it required only one partner to travel to the state and apply for the marriage license. There was also only a 48-hour waiting period.
With the help of Crossroads Hospice, an organization that gives its members "the gift of a perfect day," and the generous donations of friends, family and co-workers, they raised the $12,700 they needed to charter a medically equipped plane to Baltimore.
The couple married on the tarmac in a seven-and-a-half minute ceremony conducted by Arthur’s aunt.
"When I obtained ordination and license to marry people, I called my nephew John and told him I would go anywhere, anytime to officiate at his and Jim’s marriage," Paulette Roberts told Cincinnati.com. "He and Jim both said no. They were married to each other in their eyes, but that they would not take part in a wedding ceremony until the law of the land declared they were equal to other couples."
"Twenty-six months ago John was diagnosed with ALS," she added. "Since then the amazing relationship between John and Jim has become even closer, even more devoted, even more loving - and it was pretty damn great before John became ill."
Within an hour the couple was on their way home.
"We had talked about getting married, and we never ever felt it would be anything more than symbolic because of the nature of our country," Arthur told Cincinnati.com.
Next year, Ohio may have the opportunity to vote to repeal its same-sex marriage ban, allowing more couples like Obergefell and Arthur to marry in the state.