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‘A perfect day’ – Terminally ill patient marries partner on airport tarmac

Sunday, July 14, 2013
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John Arthur is bedridden with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), a progressive neurological disease that robs patients of their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe.

On June 26, as he watched news that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage that prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages, John knew what would be that one “perfect day” before he took his last breath.

From left, Jim Obergefell, Paulette Roberts and John Arthur

On Thursday, John and his partner Jim Obergefell boarded a medical transport plane that could accommodate his stretcher, and with a nurse on board, two pilots trained in emergency medicine, and his aunt, an ordained minister, they made the 70-minute flight from Lunken Airport in Cincinnati to Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Glen Burnie, Md.

And when they landed, in the cramped cabin of the jet, with Jim seated next to John’s stretcher, the couple turned to each other, held hands and exchanged their wedding vows.

When the 7 1/2 minute ceremony was over, they celebrated with Champagne, the pilots climbed back in and prepared to leave.

After 56 minutes on the ground in Maryland — one of 13 states where same-sex marriage is legal — they were headed back to Cincinnati, matching rings on their left hands, finally married after 20 years, six months and 11 days together.

“I’m overjoyed,” John said. “I’m very proud to be an American and be able to openly share my love for the record. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”

Watch their story, via the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The couple’s perfect day was made possible by Crossroads Hospice, where John has been a patient since March. Crossroads offers the gift of a perfect day to its patients, a chance for the terminally ill to do something they’ve always dreamed of.

And while they said they always felt like they were married, they knew that Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage would probably not be lifted in John’s lifetime.

The hospice provided some of there services to make their wedding day happen, like an ambulance ride to the airport, but conventional travel was not an option for John, and cost-prohibitive for the couple and the hospice.

But when Jim asked friends if they had any connections, donations poured in from relatives, friends, former co-workers, even someone in Ireland they’d met on a cruise.

They covered enough of the cost to make the trip possible, and give John and Jim a perfect day.

Read more at the Cincinnati Enquirer:

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