My wife and I have been married for nearly a month now — we were one of the first same-sex couples to marry in Alabama.
Alabama is filled with hills and valleys, like the smile on my wife Shante’s face when I come home from work. And, despite the challenges, despite the Alabama Supreme Court, despite each and every time Alabama has stood in the path of equality, I still love it here.
Some are skeptical of the South. But I have found a community and a place for myself where I am supported and loved deeply by Southerners who Roll Tide and War Eagle. I find myself surrounded by communities of individuals who are incredibly passionate, kind, and caring. The minority of people who are inconsiderate and disrespectful sometimes seem to gain power and make their voices heard above the din here, but this is my home. This is where my wife and I will build our bright future together.
We find ourselves in strange times, but we can find inspiration in the echoes of the past that inspired my passion for justice. Sparks that come from my mother, Darlene Marie Carter, and from civil rights pioneers like Olivia Davidson and Margaret Murray Washington. The fuel feeding my burning desire for equality comes from legendary figures like Booker T. Washington and Dr. Clyde Robertson. You know, none of us can ever say that we are so self-motivated and self-inspired that we do it all by ourselves. And in the fight for lasting equality for all Americans, the legacies of those who have fought similar battles—and often died for their belief in the innate dignity of every human being—provide me with reasons to work for an Alabama where differences are not divisive, but respected.
As we remember the marches from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago, and the pioneers whose bravery led to the passage to the Voting Rights Act, we are again at a crossroads. Some of us would like to move backwards, think less thoughtfully, and be less respectful to one another. But I take a lesson from passionate leaders, civil rights pioneers, and those marchers who stood their ground against oppression on U.S. Route 80. They were the Southerners I know now, the ones who recognize the importance of equality, of kindness, and of grace, and who are good to their neighbors and do right by one another.
When I look at the photographs from my wedding day in Montgomery, I see reflections of my mother, of those who fought for our lives and for our freedoms, and those who have stood in support of our love. And I see a future for my family here in Alabama, one more beautiful than any we could have ever imagined. I hope and pray for that future, and for an Alabama that truly does “dare defend our rights” and the rights of all those who seek equality.