The REALTOR® at the Heart
of Marriage Equality
A landmark Supreme Court decision reroutes
Jim Obergefell’s real estate career—for now.
Jim Obergefell was ready for a career
change when he got his real estate
license in December 2014. The former
corporate project manager and IT
consultant, who had always “loved
real estate,” was pleased to become
an agent with Coldwell Banker West
Shell in Cincinnati. But sometimes
life upends the best-laid plans. In this
case, it occurred when Obergefell was
transformed into a national civil rights
hero almost overnight. He was the lead
plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case
legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015.
Obergefell met with about 150 of his
real estate peers in April for the first
time since the marriage equality deci-
sion overtook his real estate work—and
his life. As the opening speaker at a
continuing education class on fair
housing and LGBT issues presented by
the Cincinnati Area Board of
REALTORS®, he highlighted the
emotional meaning of the landmark
decision by relating his personal jour-
ney. “I’ve come to see that when you
tell your story, that’s how you change
hearts and minds,” he said.
Obergefell says he didn’t want to
marry his partner of 20 years, John
Arthur, “just to be symbolic. I wanted
it to carry legal weight.” But their life
together was turned upside down when
Arthur was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.
When the Supreme Court struck down
a key part of the Defense of Marriage
Act in June 2013, which had denied federal benefits to married gay couples,
the two decided it was time to wed.
Because marriage was not an option in
their home state of Ohio and Arthur’s
health was failing rapidly, they traveled
to Baltimore Washington International
Airport by medical jet a few weeks later
and got hitched on the tarmac. Friends
and other supporters who emerged
via social media contributed the full
$13,000 necessary to hire the plane.
“This was the happiest moment of
our lives,” Obergefell said. Arthur died
three months later.
For now, while he’s caught in the
media spotlight, Obergefell says his
real estate career has taken a back
seat. But that may not be forever.
Read the full story at realtorm.ag/
By Wendy Cole
istration and other entities with strict
minimum requirements pertaining to
Manchester, N. H.–based real estate
consultant Jeffrey Donohoe agrees that
drones offer fresh opportunities. He
says he first got involved in the business
of drones “by accident” in 2012 while
consulting in the community near North
Dakota’s Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Community leaders there, he found, were
eager to support the base, which had a pioneering role in drone development. They
ultimately invested in a business park
focused on unmanned aircraft, an effort
that led to the development of research
facilities necessary to support further
Donohoe has seen up close what
drones can do for real estate, noting their
value in tracking utility lines, pipelines,
and even wildlife in difficult terrain.
“[They can reach] remote areas where
you couldn’t get a guy on a 4-wheeler out
to do visual inspections or [only one] who
might cover a mile in a day,” Donohoe
says. “UAVs can cover 25 miles in a day.”
Areas with a booming drone manufac-
turing industry benefit the real estate in-
dustry for another reason: New jobs push
up demand for homes and office space.
An industry study by AUVSI forecasts
more than 100,000 drone-related jobs
will be created though through 2025.
The FAA today allows licensed pilots
with a Section 333 waiver to operate
drones commercially. The process is
expected to change when the rules are
released. Although details aren’t yet
available, safety, privacy, and liability
issues will continue to be paramount.
Learn more about safe and responsible
commercial drone use at realtor.org/
By Jon Boughtin