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Jim Obergefell, Ohio plaintiff in U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark gay marriage ruling, concerned about draft Roe decision

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 5/3/2022 Laura Hancock, cleveland.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jim Obergefell, a Sandusky resident who was a lead plaintiff in the 2015 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, said in a statement Tuesday that he is concerned about the future of abortion and gay rights, after a 98-page draft decision was leaked.

The draft U.S. Supreme Court decision, obtained by Politico and released Monday night, shows a majority of the court deciding a Mississippi abortion clinic case by halting abortion rights that the court had previously said were guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution in the cases of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.

Furthermore, the draft decision mentions the case of Obergefell v. Hodges by name — twice.

The first time the case was mentioned, the draft decision writer, Justice Samuel Alito, listed Obergefell v. Hodges as one of two examples of Supreme Court decisions that relied on Roe and Casey legal arguments.

The second time Obergefell v. Hodges is mentioned is further down in the draft decision, in pointing to an argument made by the U.S. solicitor general, a member of the U.S. Department of Justice, in a brief in the Mississippi case.

The solicitor general argued that the Supreme Court couldn’t overturn Roe and Casey because the court earlier said that gay people in Obergefell v. Hodges had the due process right ”inherent in the concept of individual autonomy,” and that “decisions concerning marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make.” Those legal concepts came from the earlier abortion cases, the solicitor had argued in September.

But Alito disagreed in his draft decision, saying that the earlier Roe and Casey decisions were weak.

“Unable to show concrete reliance on Roe and Casey themselves, the Solicitor General suggests that overruling those decisions would “threaten the Court’s precedents holding that the Due Process Clause protects other rights,” he wrote. “As even the Casey plurality recognized, ‘(a)bortion is a unique act’ because it terminates ‘life or potential life.’”

Alito goes on to clarify that the majority on the court say the concerns are over the constitutional right to an abortion and no other right.

“Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” he wrote.

That doesn’t provide Obergefell a lot of confidence that gay marriage will be safe, he said. He also said he’s concerned about abortion rights.

“The extreme U.S. Supreme Court should not be overturning decades of established law and denying the most basic human health rights to women to make their own decisions about their lives and their bodies,” he said in a statement. “It’s also concerning that some members of the extreme court are eager to turn their attention to overturning marriage equality.

“The sad part is in both these cases, five or six people will determine the law of the land and go against the vast majority of Ohioans and Americans who overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to make her own health decisions and a couple’s right to be married. This is a sad day, but it’s not over. We have fought the good fight for too long to be denied our rights now,” he said.

Tuesday is Ohio’s primary election and Obergefell is running for the Ohio House, likely in the 89th District.

But Ohio House and Senate races are not included in Tuesday’s election because the Ohio Redistricting Commission has failed to pass a set of state legislative maps to clear constitutional muster to a majority on the Ohio Supreme Court. The state legislative elections are likely to be in August.

In November, Obergefell will likely face Republican D.J. Swearingen of Huron.

Abortion opponents are excited about the draft ruling.

“Countless hours have been spent in prayer, in pregnancy centers, at the polls, and in communities fighting to end abortion,” Center for Christian Virtue President Aaron Baer said in a statement. “It now seems our prayers have been heard from heaven, and we may truly see Roe v Wade overturned.”

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit cleveland.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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