Sweet(er) Home Alabama


1977055_873200206065811_2569362305965461275_nAlabama’s the last state many expected to see rule in favor of same-sex marriages. Even HRC member and Former Vice Chair of Equality Alabama Patrick Scarborough admitted Friday’s ruling was somewhat unexpected. Many thought that Alabamians would have to await the upcoming and anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected later this year. However, a federal judge ruled in the favor of LGBT families and supporters across the state, deeming the state’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional. So, what does this mean for the Deep South and neighboring states like Texas with pending cases (Cleo DeLeon & Nicole Dimetman and Mark Phariss & Vic Holmes) similar to the one that sparked the overruling in Alabama?With a recent victory in Florida and one following in Alabama, members of the LGBT community and supporting allies are beginning to see a bright side for the South. But the recent victories have not been met without opposition:

“It is outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable Federal Judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand in firm support of the Sanctity of Marriage Act. The Legislature will encourage a vigorous appeals process, and we will continue defending the Christian conservative values that make Alabama a special place to live.”

Those are the words of Alabama House Speaker, Mike Hubbard, who swiftly promised an appeal in response to the overruling of Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages. The Christian conservative values he speaks of are not love, compassion, or equality, but of course, marriage between a man and a woman. And the unelected, unaccountable federal judge he speaks of is U.S. District Judge Callie V. S. Granade, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. HRC’s Scarborough says this is a point not to be overlooked – “that you have a Republican administration appointee that ruled in [the LGBT community’s] favor.” Perhaps, Judge Granade’s ruling reflects that no matter what “conservative values” anyone holds, providing equal rights to all, no matter what background, gender, race, or sexuality, is simply the right thing to do. Maybe this means a good deal of the South is beginning to realize that all families should be protected and are equal under the law.

Cari Searcy, Khaya Searcy, Kim McKeand – AP Photo/Rob Carr

Cari Searcy, Khaya Searcy, Kim McKeand – AP Photo/Rob Carr

But even with that in mind, Hubbard’s reaction and others who share his views are not much of a surprise. The recent ruling has been referred to as a “disappointment,” and “part of a left wing radical agenda.” For us and many others who simply believe in equality for all, the ruling is a sign of change, a triumphant victory, something that can truly make Alabama “a special place to live in.” For Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, the two Mobile women who filed a lawsuit that kicked everything into gear, this ruling isn’t about upholding the “conservative values” Hubbard speaks of – it’s about family and civil rights that all Americans should have. Together for 14 years and legally married (in California) since 2008, the couple simply wished to be a complete family. But barring this ruling, Searcy could not even legally adopt her son.

Patrick Scarborough

Patrick Scarborough

So again, what does this mean for the Deep South and neighboring states like Texas?

It means from here, we can only move forward. It means that as we break barriers, we must be aware that someone who’s opposed may already be working to build a new barrier for us to tear down. The Alabama ruling has been met with a 14-day stay, but Scarborough insists that although there will be negative things to combat, “on whole, it’s been encouraging.” And that’s all we need to win the fight – consistent effort, encouragement and the will to achieve what we, as a community and as human beings, have set out to achieve, love and equality. And as far as opposition goes, Scarborough offers a bit of L Style G Style advice. He says, “Get to know us and once you know us, your opinion of us will be difficult to maintain.” But until then, we’re stepping in the right direction.