Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that could determine the constitutionality of marriage for same-sex couples, smiles as he walks out of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, June 18, 2015. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty)
Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the case which legalised marriage equality across the US, has explained what the late supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsbug meant to him.
In 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of Jim Obergefell and other plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges, declaring both that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, and that states are required to recognise marriages from elsewhere.
The victory of equality came by a vote of 5-4, with the majority opinion authored by justice Anthony Kennedy, who was joined by justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at her home on Friday evening (18 September) from complications of metastatic cancer of the pancreas, prompting an outpouring of love and praise for the equal rights champion.
Speaking with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Obergefell described Ginsburg’s death as “a devastating loss”, and said: “All of us in the LGBT+ community, and I would also say any marginalised group in our nation, we’re reeling from the death of an advocate for equality.”
He said that the queer community felt the loss “especially painfully because she had become such an advocate for us, and she was willing to get to know us and to understand us”.
Obergefell added: “I see justice Ginsburg’s legacy as one of someone who dedicated her career and her life to our nation, for the betterment of our nation.
“She truly believed in the law applying to all people. She believed in equal justice under law, those four words inscribed in the pediment of the courthouse.
“She also understood that the constitution is a living, breathing document… She understood that that document had to change in response to changing society, in response to how we learn more, how we understand each other more as time goes by.
“So for me, her legacy is all about dignity and equality under the law, and I can’t think of a better legacy for a Supreme Court justice to have.”
Jim Obergefell is ‘very concerned’ about LGBT+ rights being ‘taken away’.
Democrats have called for a delay in replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, following a precedent set during the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency, when Republicans senate majority leader Mitch McConnell declared a replacement would not be approved, and that the next president would instead choose his or her pick following the election.
However on Friday (18 September), McConnell was adamant that a vote would be held on Trump’s nominee. Ted Cruz has argued that there is a different precedent for times when the White House and Senate are controlled by the same party, which wasn’t the case under Obama.
On the political firestorm over naming Ginsburg’s successor on the Supreme Court, Jim Obergefell said: “The fact that McConnell issued that statement shortly after it was announced [that Ginsburg had died], he isn’t giving her the chance to be honoured and to be remembered, and to be respected.
“It immediately became political. The country really didn’t have a chance to start mourning, to grieve for her, before he came out with that statement and turned this into a political fight, which it should not be.”
Until Ginsburg’s death, the supreme court had a 5 to 4 Republican majority. Should Trump’s nominee be appointed, this would shift to a stronger 6 to 3 conservative majority which could remain in place for decades, shaping major legal decisions in the US for years to come.
Obergefell said: “I am definitely more concerned about marriage equality, as well as other issues of equality for all marginalised groups, with Justice Ginsburg no longer on the court.
“If Trump is able to nominate and have a judge confirmed, I am very concerned about our rights being taken away and other rights being denied under a newly very conservative court.”