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Obergefell reacts to SCOTUS ruling on LGBTQ employees being protected from workplace discrimination

Posted at 10:19 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 11:08:56-04

Jim Obergefell, the Cincinnati man who was the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that declared same-sex marriage legal across the U.S., said that Monday's SCOTUS decision is a huge moment for the LGBTQ community.

"We can now work without fear of losing our jobs simply because of who we are, how we present or whom we love," he said. "This decision is enormous and what a great day.”

For Obergefell, who now considers himself a civil rights activist, the ruling brought back memories.

“I remember back sitting in the Supreme Court when our decision came out, that feeling of, ‘Hey, for the first time in my life as an out gay man, I feel a little bit more like an equal American,'" he said. "The wonderful thing is -- today I felt that again.”

Obergefell said that even with today's Supreme Court victory, there's still a lot of work to be done for his cause.

"I think one of the most important things – important challenges we face is these demands, the demands for the right to discriminate against us because of deeply-held religious beliefs,” he said. “Whatever those beliefs are, they are very deeply held, and I think that’s one of our biggest challenges is -- even though now we can get married, and we can’t be fired at work, we can still be denied service in public businesses because of religious refusal laws.”

One of the biggest surprises for Obergefell: Today's opinion was authored by President Donald Trump's first appointeeto the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch. The court ruled 6-3 in favor of granting protection from discrimination to LGBT workers, with conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch siding with the majority.

“I would like to say that what this means is that (Justice) Gorsuch and (Chief Justice) Roberts will both continue to be part of the decision that validates the LGBTQ+ community and validates our civil rights and our ability to take equal part of society," Obergefell said. "I want to believe that, but I am really going to take a wait and see attitude, because I don’t know that. I’m thankful that they ruled the way they did in this case, but I don’t know that we can sit back and feel confident that, in any other cases that come before them, especially around religious refusal bills, and religious refusal in public businesses, I’m not sure we can rely on them when those hit the court."

He said that even with today's win, the LGBTQ community still has a lot to fight for, like the ability to adopt on equal footing with straight couples or to adopt from various organizations.

“This was such a huge step forward for us," Obergefell said. "Today’s a day of celebration, but tomorrow we continue the work.”