Yes, even in Alabama

The conversation has begun in Alabama.

Our editorial appears in today’s Mobile Press-Register.

Same-sex marriage is inevitable, even in Alabama

There have been politicians and preachers and letter writers in this state who proclaim that “there will never be gay marriage in Alabama.” But “never” is a long time — and, in fact, recently I have heard even the most conservative religious leaders concede that the legalization of same-sex marriage is inevitable.

There is an abundance of misinformation about same-sex marriage, some of it purposely distorted in order to sway opinion. Why Marriage Matters Alabama is a group that has formed to educate the people of Alabama about marriage equality.

I know gay and lesbian couples who have been legally married in other states, or who have had commitment ceremonies in this state, and they have something in common with the opposite-sex couples that I know: They marry because they fall in love, they want to make public their commitment to one another, and they want to be recognized as a family.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 11,259 same-sex couples in Alabama. None of these couples enjoy the legal benefits and responsibilities that come with marriage, including 1,138 such benefits granted by the federal government to married straight couples.

Some people argue that the most commonly mentioned benefits — rights to inheritance, hospital visitation and power of attorney, for example — are available to gay and lesbian couples by contractual means. That may be true, but why should some people have to pay an attorney hundreds of dollars for something for which others pay less than $50?

Others claim that the gay community wants to “change the definition of marriage.”

I could reply that the definition of marriage has been changing since the Book of Genesis was written, when men had multiple wives and women were treated more like property than equals. But in reality, the current customs of marriage involve people falling in love and making a decision to spend their lives together, committed to values that they deem important.

In addition, many gay and lesbian couples have children either through the natural parenting by one parent or by adoption. While some argue that all children deserve a mother and a father, reality reveals that many children live in single-parent households. And research shows us that children in same-sex households perform as well as or better than children in opposite-sex households.

Arguments against the Defense of Marriage Act are making their way through the courts. Until DOMA is declared unconstitutional or until Congress overturns it, federal recognition of marriage equality will not happen.

At the same time, six states and the District of Columbia now recognize marriage equality at the state level. This means that a significant number of gay and lesbian people now live in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages.

It also gives options for couples living in other states who are willing to travel in order to give their relationship some degree of legitimacy.

Among the worst of the disparities that some gay and lesbian couples must endure are those that affect binational couples — when one person is a U.S. citizen and his or her spouse or partner is not. This is not an issue for straight couples; but for gay or lesbian couples, it can mean forced separation and deportation as families are torn apart.

To be a just nation, everyone must be treated equally. Why Marriage Matters Alabama realizes that the fight for justice and marriage equality in this state will not be easy.

We know that unfairness was written into our constitution in 2006 with Alabama voters’ approval of the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.

But we also realize that people of our state are not informed about same-sex couples — about the love and the commitment that they share, and how families are affected by marriage inequality.

We are here to educate the people of Alabama on these issues.

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