Lead plaintiff at center of same-sex marriage ruling honors early gay rights protesters

Jim Obergefell, center, the man at the center of the landmark Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling, looks to Malcolm Lazin, right, with the Equality Forum, after they laid down a wreath at the Gay Pioneers historical marker across from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Philadelphia. Some 40 activists picketed for gay rights on July Fourth in 1965 at the site.

Jim Obergefell, center, the man at the center of the landmark Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling, looks to Malcolm Lazin, right, with the Equality Forum, after they laid down a wreath at the Gay Pioneers historical marker across from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Philadelphia. Some 40 activists picketed for gay rights on July Fourth in 1965 at the site. Matt Slocum, AP

Jim Obergefell, center, the man at the center of the landmark Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling, looks to Malcolm Lazin, right, with the Equality Forum, after they laid down a wreath at the Gay Pioneers historical marker across from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Philadelphia. Some 40 activists picketed for gay rights on July Fourth in 1965 at the site.Matt Slocum, AP

Jim Obergefell, center, the man at the center of the landmark Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling, looks to Malcolm Lazin, right, with the Equality Forum, after they laid down a wreath at the Gay Pioneers historical marker across from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Philadelphia. Some 40 activists picketed for gay rights on July Fourth in 1965 at the site.

PHILADELPHIA — Regina Sullivan started crying as she squeezed her arms around the man at the center of the latest gay rights milestone: Jim Obergefell, whose lawsuit led to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land.

Sullivan, 17, offered her embrace before a ceremony Thursday where Obergefell helped place a wreath at a historical marker commemorating one of the movement’s first milestones: a rally near Philadelphia’s Independence Hall a half-century ago.

“For me, it’s an honor to be here to pay tribute to those people who took much bigger risks than I did and laid the groundwork for John and me to be married and for us to stand up and have the courage to fight,” said Obergefell. “Without the people here in Philadelphia 50 years ago, I wouldn’t be here.”

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Obergefell, 48, won a court order in 2013 to be listed as the surviving spouse on late husband John Arthur’s death certificate after their home state of Ohio said it would not recognize their out-of-state marriage. The case reached the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court overturned the order.

“It is so fortuitous that these two events should collide,” said Malcolm Lazin, the head of the four-day National LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration.

Obergefell and fellow marriage equality champion Edith Windsor, whose Supreme Court case ended the Defense of Marriage Act, are among the featured guests at a tribute Saturday to the 1965 protest.

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