Meet the REALTOR® at the Heart of the Marriage Equality Decision

April 7, 2016

In recognition of Fair Housing Month, Cincinnati REALTORS® heard a thoughtful overview Wednesday of the real estate implications of the Supreme Court’s decision a year ago legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

There was plenty of discussion about the impact of marriage equality on capital gains exclusions and title insurance decisions, but the roughly 150 attendees at the half-day continuing education class sponsored by the Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS® gained an even deeper understanding of the emotional meaning of the landmark decision when the lead plaintiff in the case, Jim Obergefell, opened the session by sharing the personal journey that has turned him into a national civil rights hero for many.

In 2013, Obergefell married his partner of 20 years, John Arthur, who was dying of ALS disease. Obergefell also happens to be an agent with Coldwell Banker West Shell in Cincinnati.

Speaking to REALTOR® Magazine before his remarks to the group, Obergefell explained that he obtained his real estate license in December 2014, after travelling for much of the year following Arthur’s death three months after they wed. “I needed to clear my head,” he said. He and Arthur previously worked together at four different companies doing project management and IT consulting.

“I was always interested in home buying and I love real estate,” he said, explaining his career change. Obergefell and Arthur bought and sold four homes in Cincinnati during their two decades together. During his first three months as an agent, Obergefell was involved in two transactions before the Supreme Court whirlwind reshaped his life again­. He also served on the Cincinnati board’s Diversity and Housing Initiatives Committee.

His colleague at Coldwell Banker, Julia Wesselkamper described Oberfgefell as “a hero in our community. It was so moving to hear him share his story with other REALTORS®.”

Obergefell has coauthored a book about the case, Love Wins, which is due out in June. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has secured the rights to make a feature film based on his experience. “While my life is completely different now, I’m keeping my real estate license active. You never know when this all may change again,” he added.

—By Wendy Cole, REALTOR® Magazine