Jim Obergefell on Why “Love Wins” for LGBTQ Americans on This Valentine’s Day

We interviewed the landmark Supreme Court marriage equality plaintiff on activism, impact, and love.

Jim Obergefell is releasing a new book on his fight for marriage equality this summer. Photography courtesy of ACLU.

Jim Obergefell is releasing a new memoir on his fight for marriage equality this summer. Photograph courtesy of Jim Obergefell

This upcoming Valentine’s Day marks the first one since marriage equality became the law of the land. Looking back, have your views on love changed?
I wouldn’t say my views on love have necessarily changed, but they have deepened and become more poignant. I’ve watched couples fight for each other, I’ve watched parents fight out of love for their children, and I’ve watched our nation celebrate. I firmly believe that “love wins,” and that love can change the world. I learned that I can — and will — do anything to live up to the promises I make to the person I love and commit to.

What have been some of your recent memorable moments of LGBTQ love across the country?
There have been many, so I’ll share a few I’ve experienced. A man, standing across the street, held up his left hand, pointed at the ring on his ring finger, and mouthed “Thank you” to me. A woman broke into tears as she showed me photos of her minister performing marriages on decision day. A lesbian couple, together for more than 40 years but only recently married, and I discussed how marriage after so long together changed nothing — but also changed everything — for us. A mom thanked me for making it possible for her son to one day fall in love with and marry the man of his dreams. I read the final page of Justice Kennedy’s decision as part of a wedding ceremony for friends in Cincinnati, and I loved seeing the joy on their faces and the faces of their family and friends.

How do you think marriage equality will affect holidays like Valentine’s Day and/or society’s understanding of same-sex couples?
I believe marriage equality, and the greater acceptance of the LGBTQ community, has happened because people are more open about who they are, and we’re willing to share our stories. For too long, LBGTQ has been an abstract concept for far too many Americans, and it takes learning that a loved one is LGBTQ for those misperceptions and fear to change, to turn into acceptance. I expect the same thing to happen with marriage equality. As couples marry across the nation, those relationships have an impact on the people around them. Others realize that we all want the same thing — to love and commit to that one person, to have that relationship respected and protected, to live up to those promises to love, honor, and protect each other. They also realize that our marriages in no way weaken or harm theirs. When we can all enter the institution of marriage, we all benefit.

How do you plan to spend your Valentine’s Day?
My husband, John, made me a better man. He taught me how to live life, and he gave me one wonderful, final gift — his wish, no, his demand really, that I date again, that I be open to love again, that I not live the rest of my life alone. He didn’t want me to close myself off to loving again in a misguided attempt to honor him. He wanted me to be happy again. My fight for John, our marriage, and marriage equality helped me grieve and heal. It’s taken a couple of years to work through my grief and get to the point where I’m open to dating. I’m excited to spend Valentine’s Day with a wonderful man who makes me laugh, makes me happy, makes me think, and who accepts me for who I am!

You can read more about Obergefell’s experiences since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in his upcoming book Love Wins, written with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Debbie Cenziper and scheduled for release June 14th.