Man behind landmark Supreme Court same-sex marriage case vows to fight for Roe v Wade

Jim Obergefell outside the US Supreme Court

Jim Obergefell, the man behind the Supreme Court case that legalised same-sex marriage in the US, has said that the fall of Roe v Wade “scares the daylights” out of him.

On Monday night (2 May), a draft Supreme Court opinion, leaked by Politico, suggested that judges are poised to overturn Roe v Wade, which made abortion a constitutional right in the US.

It sparked immediate fury and widespread protests, with interventions from activists, human rights groups and politicians including president Joe Biden.

Labelled as a draft majority opinion and penned by Justice Samuel Alito, the document called for the overturning of the 1973 decision Roe v Wade, and of the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v Casey, which banned imposing “undue burden” on a person’s right to abortion.

Both decisions relied on the US constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, and if they are overturned, experts fear other decisions, including on same-sex marriage and decriminalisation of sodomy, could be in peril. 

Obergefell, a plaintiff in the case Obergefell v Hodges, which legalised same-sex marriage, is among those determined to fight the court should it proceed with overturning Roe.

He released a statement on Tuesday (3 May) saying: “The extreme US Supreme Court should not be overturning decades of established law and denying the most basic human health rights to pregnant people to make their own decisions about their lives and their bodies.

“The sad part is … five or six people will determine the law of the land and go against the vast majority of Americans who overwhelmingly support a person’s right to make their 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.”

It won’t be clear if the court’s opinion is final until July, but speaking to CNN, Obergefell explained that the leaked draft “scares the daylights out of” him because he fears “marriage equality is next”.

“Many of the rights we enjoy, especially the LGBT+ community, are based on unenumerated rights under the Fourteenth Amendment — the right to privacy,” he added.

“If the Constitution doesn’t specifically, in writing, outline that right to privacy, then all of those rights that have been affirmed for us that are based on the right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment are at risk.”
When the draft opinion leaked, Politico reported that a source “familiar with the court’s deliberations” said four other conservative Supreme Court justices – Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – were backing Alito in his opinion.

Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are reportedly working on one or more dissents, while Chief Justice John Roberts’ plan remains unclear.