Funeral director speaks up for the deceased and their loved ones in marriage case

Robert Grunn

Robert Grunn, a Cincinnati funeral home director who has provided service for many gay and lesbian clients over the years, is part of the Ohio marriage-recognition case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Among Grunn’s clients: the late John Arthur and his spouse Jim Obergefell, who is the lead plaintiff in the case. Courtesy Robert Grunn (AP)

Robert GrunnCourtesy Robert Grunn (AP)

Robert Grunn, a Cincinnati funeral home director who has provided service for many gay and lesbian clients over the years, is part of the Ohio marriage-recognition case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Among Grunn’s clients: the late John Arthur and his spouse Jim Obergefell, who is the lead plaintiff in the case.

This article is one in a series showcasing the families who are plaintiffs in the marriage equality cases that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28. Read more here.


CINCINNATI — A funeral home director has become a voice in court for gay and lesbian clients who can no longer speak for themselves.

Robert Grunn, a Cincinnati gay man who’s been a licensed funeral director for more than two decades, joined cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking recognition of same-sex marriage in Ohio and other states.

Among Robert Grunn’s clients: the late John Arthur and his spouse Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff.

Grunn argues that Ohio funeral directors and coroners should be able to record same-sex marriages on death certificates.

“It’s making people more equal,” Grunn said in 2013 when he joined the case. “A time of death is very painful, and you don’t want to have to exclude your loved ones on a certificate that’s meaningful to your family history.”

He included Arthur and Obergefell’s marriage, performed in Maryland, on Arthur’s death certificate under a court injunction that was later overturned.

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Grunn said he plans to continue to record same-sex marriages on certificates, and hopes the high court will rule that denial of marriage recognition is unconstitutional across the nation.

The state tried to have Grunn excluded from the lawsuit, saying his own constitutional rights weren’t affected by the same-sex marriage ban. But his attorneys argued successfully that he has valid reasons to be involved, including fear of prosecution for making a “false statement” on a death certificate and because the issue affects his professional relationships with clients.

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