Stuff in the ‘Jim Obergefell’ Category

14 July, 2016


Last year saw a monumental Supreme Court decision: the affirmation of the constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. It was a long-awaited victory for much of the country, but Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the case Obergefell v. Hodges that prompted the decision, had a particularly personal relationship to it. Fighting for Jim headshotlove and fueled by love, he had become, in his words, an “accidental activist.”

Obergefell came out to his large Catholic family in his mid 20s, and in 1992 began a long-term relationship with John Arthur. After meeting twice at a Cincinnati bar, the two met for a third time at a party thrown by Arthur, where sparks flew. Soon enough they fell deeply in love and forged a quiet, happy life together in Cincinnati. They worked with one another as consultants in IT, followed a shared passion for collecting art, and enjoyed an extensive network of friends and family. Their relationship was never an issue among the people who knew them — but living as an openly gay couple in Cincinnati was at times very difficult. In fact, after an amendment was passed in the city that banned laws protecting the LGBTQ community, Cincinnati was dubbed “The City without Pity”. Ohio’s legislative opposition to gays became especially problematic for the couple in 2013, when Arthur’s illness of ALS worsened and Obergefell proposed marriage.

jim2 Although Ohio did not allow same-sex marriage, Maryland did. So Obergefell raised $14,000 to hire a chartered medical jet to fly them to the Baltimore airport, where the two men were married by Arthur’s aunt on the tarmac. Yet despite this perfectly legal marriage, Ohio was going to refuse to recognize Obergefell as Arthur’s spouse on his death certificate. Unwilling to accept this injustice, the newly married couple decided to sue the state of Ohio, and the case, given its story of love in the face of terminal illness, quickly received national attention. Obergefell was aware that winning his case could help guarantee rights for LGBTQ Ohioans. But he could not have expected that his case would rise as high as the Supreme Court, where it became clear that something greater was at stake. In June 2015, Obergefell won the case with a 5-4 majority — and the rest is literally history.

Now, a year after the Supreme Court decision, Obergefell has teamed up with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Debbie Cenziper to chronicle LOVE WINS: The Lovers and Lawyers who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality (William Morrow/June 2016), an in-depth look at the case that led to nationwide marriage equality. The book interweaves the stories of Obergefell and his late husband, and the decades-long career of civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein; readers will get to know not only the facts of the case but also the faces of its advocates. Exactingly recounted, Love Wins is urgent in its subject matter and unforgettable in its emotion.

From the beginning, Obergefell and Cenziper were in agreement that the book should be about more than just one couple and their lawyer. “Throughout the entire process,” Obergefell says, “I knew it was never just about me.” The book introduces other plaintiffs ad some of lawyers in the case as well. It took many people to achieve justice for many people — and now Obergefell’s case has granted marriage equality not only for millions of Americans today but also for generations of Americans to come. “One person, a group of people, can actually do something that impacts the world, that makes our world a better place. I discovered that it really can happen.” Today, even Obergefell’s home city of Cincinnati has changed in its attitude towards LGBTQ issues — Cincinnati has since elected an openly-gay council member and in fact was the second city in the country to ban conversion therapy.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, Obergefell has embraced his newfound role as a civil rights activist. He has worked with organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Ohio, and has been honored with awards from organizations such as Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE). Foreign Policy magazine named him one of its 2015 Global Thinkers.

12 July, 2016

LOVE WINS, Debbie Cenziper & Jim Obergefell

The fascinating and very moving story of the lovers, lawyers, judges and activists behind the LoveWins jacket rev2_FINALgroundbreaking Supreme Court case that led to one of the most important, national civil rights victories in decades—the legalization of same-sex marriage. (William Morrow/HarperCollins, June 2016)

In June 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law in all fifty states in a decision as groundbreaking as Roe v Wade and Brown v Board of Education. Through insider accounts and access to key players, this definitive account reveals the dramatic and previously unreported events behind Obergefell v Hodges and the lives at its center. This is a story of law and love—and a promise made to a dying man who wanted to know how he would be remembered.

Twenty years ago, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur fell in love in Cincinnati, Ohio, a place where gays were routinely picked up by police and fired from their jobs. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had to provide married gay couples all the benefits offered to straight couples. Jim and John—who was dying from ALS—flew to Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal. But back home, Ohio refused to recognize their union, or even list Jim’s name on John’s death certificate. Then they met Al Gerhardstein, a courageous attorney who had spent nearly three decades advocating for civil rights and who now saw an opening for the cause that few others had before him.

This forceful and deeply affecting narrative—Part Erin Brockovich, part Milk, part Still Alice—chronicles how this grieving man and his lawyer, against overwhelming odds, introduced the most important gay rights case in U.S. history. It is an urgent and unforgettable account that will inspire readers for many years to come.

Love Wins is a real winner and expertly crafted. You can tell it’s going to make a great movie.” (Bob Woodward)

“Beautifully told and carefully researched, Love Wins is a deeply moving insider’s account of the ordinary families who took the fight for marriage equality to the Supreme Court and won. . . . Though love may not always win, America really does stand for liberty and justice for all.” (Kathleen Parker, syndicated Washington Post columnist)

“[An] affecting, eloquent account… Uplifting, well-written story of personal courage and political empowerment.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A tender story, inspiring, and ultimately a huge celebration. . . . You will never forget Jim Obergefell and his lawyer Al Gerhardstein, two men who fought with every ounce of will they could muster. This book will become a classic.” (Erin Brockovich)

“Love Wins is an affecting testament to love and commitment in the face of discrimination. . . . I am recommending Love Wins to everyone I know. Rarely does a book of such uncommon beauty come around, one that digs beneath the headlines to its human heart.” (John Grogan, author of Marley & Me and The Longest Trip Home)

“Told with a novel’s narrative drive…. Taut, tense, and highly readable…. A remarkably rich portrait of America…. An excellent choice for book groups looking for exciting nonfiction.” (Booklist (starred review))

“A fascinating look at the fight for gay marriage.” (Library Journal)

“Th[is] gripping narrative conveys how the fatal illness of one man and the question for justice of another led to the important decision that said the right to marry applies to all Americans.” (Los Angeles Times)

“…A fascinating read…” (Cincinnati Enquirer)

“This gripping portrayal of the pivotal moment in the fight for marriage equality in Ohio includes childhood memories and romance a well as tense moments in court. . . . Readers will feel they’ve been completely guided into seeing the people behind the cases.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Deeply reported, vividly detailed, utterly humane… Grabs the reader and never lets go… Written with a novelist’s attention to scene description and character-revealing action… An exemplary account that anyone, no matter his or her ideological orientation, might read with both pleasure and insight.” (The Charlotte Observer)

“Bring the tissues for this powerful tale of the triumph of marriage equality. . . . A downright joy to read.” (The Washington Post)

5 July, 2016


Debbie Cenziper is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and nonfiction author who writes for The Washington Post. She is also the newly named Director of Investigative Reporting at the Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.

Over 20 years, Cenziper’s stories have sent people to prison, changed local, state and federal laws, prompted FBI and Congressional investigations and produced more funding for affordable housing, mental health care and public schools. She has won many major awards in American print journalism, including the Robert F. Kennedy Award, given by Ethel Kennedy and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University.

She received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize at The Miami Herald for stories about affordable housing developers who were stealing from the poor. The series prompted a federal takeover of the Miami-Dade housing agency. A year before that, Cenziper was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in explanatory reporting for reports that chronicled widespread breakdowns in the government’s multi-billion-dollar hurricane-warning system.

Cenziper is a frequent speaker at universities, national writing conferences, book clubs and festivals. She has been a guest on dozens of television and radio shows, including CNN, MSNBC and NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Cenziper and her stories at The Miami Herald were featured in a national PBS documentary on investigative reporting; her work at The Washington Post was featured in an award-winning, full-length documentary film, released nationwide in 2013.

In June 2017, she was even named in a question on the game show Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebec asked contestants, “Like Bob Woodward at The Washington Post, Debbie Cenziper is this type of reporter, from the Latin for ‘to track.’”

Cenziper’s first critically acclaimed nonfiction book, Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality (William Morrow) received a starred review from Booklist and was named one of the most notable books of 2016 by The Washington Post. The book was co-authored with Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the historic Supreme Court case.

Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America  from  Hachette Books publishes November 12. The book relates the gripping story of a team of Nazi hunters at the U.S. Department of Justice as they raced against time to expose members of a brutal SS killing force who disappeared in America after World War Two.

Cenziper lives near Washington, D.C.  For more, go to


22 July, 2015

21 YEARS TO MIDNIGHT: The Promise That Brought Marriage Equality to America, Debbie Cenziper & Jim Obergefell

Lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that resulted in the right to same-sex marriage in all fifty states Jim Obergefell and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist of The Washington Post Debbie Cenziper’s 21 YEARS TO MIDNIGHT: The Promise That Brought Marriage Equality, will not only tell his story, but also the larger narrative that covers what this decision means for America for publication in June 2016 to mark the first anniversary of that decision.  (North American/William Morrow; UK/Headline; Australia/Affirm Press) Optioned for Film by Temple Hill Productions/Fox 2000.