Book of the Week: Love Wins – Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell

No surprise that a major feature film is in the works for this. Reading this book, I couldn’t help but think of the groundbreaking AIDS film, Philadelphia. Love Wins put a similarly human face of the fight for marriage equality.

Washington Post reporter Cenziper manages a large cast of characters and nicely weaves together a number of complex plotlines. But at the heart of the story is Jim Obergefell’s struggle to have his marriage recognized by the State of Ohio after his husband’s death from ALS so that John Arthur’s death certificate would not forever identify him as single, invalidating their decades-long relationship.

Equally moving to me was the story of their attorney, Al Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati attorney who had spent decades advocating for civil rights. He saw in this case of a grief-stricken man whose pain was compounded by the state’s refusal to recognize the most important relationship in his life the legal opening that would lead the to one of the most important civil rights achievements of our time.


“This gripping portrayal of the pivotal moment in the fight for marriage equality in Ohio includes childhood memories and romance as well as tense moments in court. The tale is told through the life stories of the lead plaintiff, Jim Obergefell; his terminally ill husband, John Arthur; and lawyer Al Gerhardstein. Written in the third person, though Obergefell is listed as author alongside Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Cenziper, the book is so full of dialogue and personal anecdotes that it feels as much like a biography as a legal history….As Obergefell and Gerhardstein literally walk out of the courtroom into the sunlight together, readers will feel they’ve been completely guided into seeing the people behind the cases”
Publishers Weekly

Told with a novel’s narrative drive, this recounting of the landmark Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, which guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marriage, is taut, tense, and highly readable. . . . This book would make a great movie, and in the meantime, it is an excellent choice for book groups looking for exciting nonfiction.”
Booklist (starred review)

“[An] affecting, eloquent account… The authors ably create the suspense of anticipation and winnow the legal issues for lay readers. Uplifting, well-written story of personal courage and political empowerment.”
Kirkus Reviews

“If you’ve ever thought to yourself ‘how can I possibly win against these huge odds?’, this is a story for you. Because you will never forget Jim Obergefell and his lawyer Al Gerhardstein, two men who fought with every ounce of will they could muster. This book will become a classic.”
— Erin Brockovich

Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality (9780062456083) by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell. $27.99 hardcover. 6/14/2016 on sale.

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