“A real winner and expertly crafted. You can tell it’s going to make a great movie.”—Bob Woodward
More than twenty years ago, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur fell in love in Cincinnati, Ohio, a place where gay men lived in fear of being arrested or fired from their jobs. When the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 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, and exchanged vows on an airport tarmac. But back home, Ohio refused to recognize their union, and they learned that John’s death certificate would describe him as single. When John passed away, Jim would not only mourn a devoted partner, but would be denied acknowledgment of the life they had shared.
Al Gerhardstein, the son of a chicken farmer and a graduate of New York University law school, had spent decades advocating for civil rights by the time he met Jim and John. He saw in Jim a devastated man whose pain was compounded by the state’s refusal to recognize the most important relationship in his life, and just as crucially, a legal opening that had never been fully explored in an American courtroom. Together, Al and Jim began battling the state leaders, lawyers, and community groups that opposed their cause, and at times even marriage equality supporters who feared the potential setback if a case was brought forward too soon and lost. As they moved from courtroom to courtroom, they partnered with more than fifty lawyers and plaintiffs in three other states and ultimately celebrated together in June 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, making same-sex marriage the law of the land in a decision as groundbreaking as Roe v. Wade.
Through intimate interviews and insider perspectives, this definitive account reveals the dramatic, previously unreported events behind Obergefell v. Hodges and chronicles how a grieving man and his lawyer, against overwhelming odds, fulfilled a promise to a dying husband, and helped bring about the most important gay rights case in U.S. history.