Editor’s Note: Jim Obergefell is the named plaintiff in the marriage equality decision Obergefell v. Hodges. He is an activist, co-author of “Love Wins,” and the co-founder of the wine label Equality Vines. Richard Hodges is the named defendant in the same case. He was the former director of the Ohio Department of Health and former Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. View more opinion on CNN.
History will likely remember us mostly for opposing each other in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 US Supreme Court case that ultimately granted marriage equality to all Americans. Then, we were on opposite sides in a case that made national news. One of us is a lifelong Democrat, the other a lifelong Republican.
But in the more than five years since our case, we have found each other in the middle and have become friends – something that politicians in Washington DC used to do. Our political differences do not change our friendship because we both believe that the other deserves dignity and respect.
Like many SCOTUS decisions pertaining to marginalized groups, our case recognized that same-sex couples were entitled to the freedom and equal dignity of marriage and “would pose no risk of harm to themselves or third parties.” And, according to a new survey, 70% of Americans think doing so was a good idea.
Today, many of those rights are at risk. The Donald Trump-Mike Pence administration has been hard at work, tearing away at the rights of oppressed groups and marginalized communities. Only days before the election, they installed a new Supreme Court Justice – Amy Coney Barrett – who, as a law professor, criticized Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. And we are in the middle of a deadly pandemic that’s killed more than 229,000 Americans and infected more than 9 million. This is not normal, and it is unacceptable.
For these and many other reasons, we fear that the reelection of President Trump on November 3 would take our country down a path toward the darkest days of our history – one from which we may never return. These are hyper-polarized times, but this election is not between the lesser of two evils. There are two distinct paths before us, and they could not be more different.
One candidate is a rational, principled, empathetic and competent leader. The other is not. One respects the office of the presidency and has genuine concern for the people whom he serves. The other does not. One has a plan to forge a way out of the dark times we face. The other has never offered a national strategy or plan on Covid-19.
While we may not agree with every single component of Joe Biden’s plans, we agree with where he’s headed. There is simply nothing more to Trump’s campaign than a desire to divide us against each other. Biden seeks, more than anything, to bring us together. To get past the challenges we face today, that’s what we’ll need.
Our system of government is designed to give everyone a voice and to create compromise. However, this President and his enablers seem to have no issue with showing total disregard for the agreed upon norms and traditions of our democracy. This could not contrast more starkly with Biden’s long record of working with both parties to accomplish real and lasting change, both as a US senator and as vice president.
And while no person is perfect, we can count on Biden to listen, learn and grow from experience. Imagine how many more of us would be alive today had someone with that kind of humility and bravery – and deference to public health experts – been at the helm when the pandemic began.
In a normal election, we vote based on policies and agendas. We identify candidates that will take the side we agree with on issues we care about. By and large, we choose between two capable, rational people to represent us. This is not that kind of election.
The last four years have left the oppressed more oppressed, both in word and in deed, and our civil discourse has entirely devolved. The cost of this presidency has been the integrity of our nation itself. Are we a nation of the people and justice under law, or are we a nation where those values that we claim as “American” no longer apply?
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Each one of us is accountable for our choice on Election Day. Compromising with a man (and an agenda) who is so incredibly flawed makes that choice incredibly flawed.
We encourage our fellow Americans to take the path that leads away from division and darkness and toward a bright new future for our country. A path built by real, substantive, expertly informed plans and a deep desire to bring our nation together again because there is more that brings us together than could possibly divide us. A path forged by a love for one another and compassion for each other.
Together, whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, we ask you to vote for Joe Biden.