It was spring of 1997. After being introduced by a mutual friend, my sorority sister, during our sophomore year of college, April and I found ourselves inseparable. There was an immediate strong emotional connection. This bond was the beginning of a friendship that soon turned into a loving relationship.
As I was coming to terms with my sexuality, April and I certainly had some difficult moments. We came out to both of our families during our senior year, but we still led a very closeted life. While we both were comfortable with ourselves, being a young gay couple in the Deep South wasn't easy.
During our senior year of college, we both knew that we were ready for a life-long relationship, and we held a small commitment ceremony attended by six of our dearest friends. Our life was as typical as any other young couple. Although we only came out to a handful of good friends, we were slowly becoming more comfortable with living our life honestly and truthfully. Around this time we also became more spiritual and found a loving church home. Growing in our faith helped us to grow closer to each other.
As our relationship grew we found ourselves doing what many couples do — making plans to bring a child into our family. In 2007 our prayers were answered, and we were blessed with a healthy baby girl.
We were met with so much support from family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers as they came to understand our family dynamics. As our child was getting older, and with kindergarten on the horizon, we knew for simplicity sake that having the same last name would help tie our family together in the public school realm. We also knew that we needed to make our commitment legal, so that we could potentially receive legal protection and security as a unified family.
In 2012, 19 of our closest friends and family traveled to Massachusetts to help us commit ourselves before God to each other as loving, dedicated spouses and mothers. Our wedding, and the entire 10-day trip that followed, was beautiful in every way. Our pastor from our church solemnized our marriage on our 15th anniversary as a couple. Our wedding day was filled with love, emotion, and blessings, as we officially became a legally wedded couple. I know that our wedding day was filled with God's presence.
Our lives have changed many ways since becoming legally wed. Our names now reflect a unified family unit, we feel our relationship is affirmed by God, and we have gained a deeper sense of respect from other families.
However, living in Alabama we really have no legal family security. Although I have raised our child from day one, I have no legal relationship to my child. Everyday tasks — such as doctor's appointments, taxes, and insurance claims — can be complicated, as we must justify our relationship and family.
Our family makeup may be different than most, but we are similar in more ways than one might realize. We have the same responsibilities, dreams, and expectations as any other loving couple. We pray for our child's health and safety with every breath. We strive to do good in our community and in our workplace.
Over the last 17 years our relationship has evolved and continues to change as our lives grow with each other. Our love continues to deepen and become more fulfilling. We balance each other. I am silly and impulsive. April is grounded and confident. We are raising a child together with love and through love — instilling in her respect for herself and respect for all people.
April and Ginger are clients in the ACLU's lawsuit to bring the freedom to marry to Alabama.