John Arthur, who with his longtime partner helped lead a legal challenge to Ohio's ban on gay marriage, died today (Oct. 22) at the age of 48.
Arthur suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease.
Earlier this year, he and his partner of more than two decades, 47-year-old James Obergefell, went to Maryland to marry because Ohio bars same-sex couples from marrying. When they returned to their home state, the two men filed a federal complaint seeking recognition of their marriage in Ohio so that they could be buried together in the Arthur family plot. The Associated Press reported that the plot only allows decedents and spouses.
Arthur's attorney, Al Gerhardstein, said on Oct. 22 that the love the Arthur and Obergefell shared "is a model for all of us." Together they fought for equality and the rights for all same-sex couples in Arthur's last days.
"Part of John's legacy will be the difference he has already made in the struggle for marriage equality," Gerhardstein said, according to the AP.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black ruled in favor of the couple and a second couple that joined in the lawsuit. He wrote that they deserved to be treated with respect and that Ohio law historically has recognized out-of-state marriages as valid as long as they were legal where they took place.
"How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriages as ones it will not recognize?" Black wrote in August. "The short answer is that Ohio cannot."
The lawsuit has been expanded to have the out-of-state marriages of all gay couples in similar situations recognized on Ohio death certificates, despite the statewide ban. Black is expected to rule on that in December.
Critics of the lawsuit said it's a backdoor approach to legalizing gay marriage in Ohio and that the cemetery where Obergefell and Arthur want to be buried likely would accommodate their request without litigation.
But the president of the cemetery where they want to be buried said he has to follow Ohio law.