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VIEWS LGBTQ discrimination is a disgrace
Named plaintiff in landmark Supreme Court gay marriage case talks cases now before court
by Jim Obergefell
2020-05-18

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Re the New York Times article, "Aimee Stephens, 59, Plaintiff in Transgender Rights Case" ( obituary, May 14 ):

Our world has long been gripped by questions of mortality and legacy, perhaps more than ever in recent months as people around the globe have confronted the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel especially heavy as I reflect on Aimee Stephens, who died on Tuesday. This fall, her lawsuit challenging anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination became the first case about the civil rights of transgender people to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Five years ago, my own case seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples reached the Supreme Court, and while the historic opinion bears my name, the soul of the decision really belongs to my late husband, John Arthur, who died before he could see how our love helped move the country forward.

Advocates frequently cite the famous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." But I also believe that for far too many, the arc does not bend toward justice quickly enough.

That was the case for my husband. It's the case for Don Zarda, another plaintiff in the Supreme Court employment discrimination litigation, who died in 2014. And it's the case for so many everyday LGBTQ Americans who keep waiting and waiting to be protected from discrimination.

In 2020, in a majority of states and at the federal level, LGBTQ people lack basic protections from being fired, denied housing or refused service because of who they are or who they love. What a disgrace.

In the coming days the Supreme Court will issue its ruling in the cases brought by Aimee Stephens, Don Zarda and a gay man from Georgia, Gerald Bostock. Whatever the outcome, the fight won't be over. Only through federal and state legislation can we secure full protections from anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

We all exist in this world for such a short time. While we are here, let us strive to be kind, to be decent, to treat others the way we want to be treated. That's really what we mean when we talk about protecting people from discrimination.

Aimee and Don and John have already left this world. But they've passed the baton to us—to all of us—and they're counting on us to honor their memory, fulfill their legacy and cross the finish line.

Let's not let them down.

Jim Obergefell

Columbus, Ohio

The writer, the named plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, is an author, speaker and founder of Equality Vines.

This letter is an authorized republishing of an item that originally ran in The New York Times. The original is at www.nytimes.com/2020/05/16/opinion/letters/jim-obergefell-lgbtq-supreme-court.html .


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