In 2013, a man named Jim Obergefell went to great lengths to marry his terminally ill partner John Arthur in Maryland — only for his home state of Ohio to later refuse to name him as the spouse on Arthur’s death certificate. Like millions of other people, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Debbie Cenziper followed the ensuing lawsuit Obergefell v. Hodges in the paper. But unlike most readers, Cenziper had a personal connection to the Obergefell case: her first husband was Arthur’s first cousin. In fact, Obergefell and Arthur were present at Cenziper’s wedding twenty-five years ago, and they had kept in touch on and off over the years through family.
Cenziper had long kept her eyes peeled for something to write her first book about, and Obergefell and Arthur’s story moved her deeply: she knew at once that she wanted to write about their case. She promptly called Obergefell and told him about her idea — and to her excitement he was on board. Two months prior to the case’s Supreme Court ruling, Cenziper took an unpaid leave of absence from her job at the Washington Post and began the intensive process of writing a book.
Now, a year after the Supreme Court decision, Cenziper and Obergefell have published LOVE WINS: The Lovers and Lawyers who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality (William Morrow), a comprehensive look at the long road to marriage equality. The book interweaves the stories of Obergefell and his late husband and the decades-long plight of civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein, against the larger context of the historical injustice faced by LGBTQ people. Readers will get to know not only the facts of the LGBTQ struggle for equality but also the faces of the cause’s many advocates.
During her research, Cenziper found herself inspired not only by the stories of the plaintiffs but also by those of the local civil rights lawyers. All of the people involved in the case were just regular Americans, fighting for simple freedoms like an accurate birth certificate, who managed to achieve something monumental for the whole country. While some books with similar topics focus on history or politics, Love Wins is a book foremost about people. “It’s a book about love and commitments — what spouses do to protect each other, what parents do to protect their children.” And in this way, the book’s messages are universal. Named by Oprah as a “must-read book of the summer,” Love Wins is urgent in its subject matter and unforgettable in its emotion.
Cenziper has won major prizes in American journalism, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Journalism, and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. In addition to the Washington Post, she has held reporting positions at the Miami Herald and the Charlotte Observer. She grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from the University of Florida, and currently lives in Washington, DC.
-Nicole BlumView all authors