On February 13, 2011 the people of Alabama who read the Birmingham News saw the first wedding announcement for a male couple ever published in our state.
“Jeremy Cooper Erdreich and Larry Zuendel Slater, both of Birmingham, AL, announce their upcoming union,” the announcement began.
Mr. Erdreich and Mr. Slater went on to be joined in a civil ceremony in Provincetown, MA, on June 3, 2011, and to have a wedding ceremony locally on June 11, 2011.
Coincidentally or not, the Birmingham ceremony occurred during the annual Pride parade sponsored by Central Alabama Pride, and the parade passed by Temple Emanu-El as the couple was leaving the venue after the wedding. Parade participants felt exuberant upon seeing the happy couple, and even those who did not know Larry and Jeremy personally felt their pride swell a bit with this step forward.
This event planted the seeds in the minds of many about starting a conversation about marriage in our state. Almost a year later, we have this organization, Why Marriage Matters Alabama, set in place to educate the people of the state on marriage equality but also to be a resource and a source of inspiration for the LGBT community and those who want to see their dream of being able to marry the person they love fulfilled.
Larry wrote at the time about a woman who was moved by their marriage blessing and stated, “You never know when something you do is going to touch another’s life. I know Jeremy and I are doing this for us, but we are excited and proud to be able to do it for our community and for all of those that were not able to do it before us.”
As they were reflecting on the past year while celebrating their upcoming first anniversary in New York, Larry realized that they were in a place where their marriage was recognized, and a sense of comfort was felt.
“For the first time, all the worry and fear kind of drifted away. I knew that if something happened that week, we would have no issues with visitation should something terrible happen. We would have no issues with who would serve as the other’s legal voice should something terrible happen. We could freely talk about our husband without fear of discrimination in housing or employment. We could file our taxes together (for the State at least). We were really married. I felt like our relationship was real, legitimate, for the first time since our wedding. And thankfully, no matter where I live, I am not going to let any State take that feeling away from me again.”
Of course reality always sets in; the couple returned to Alabama where their marriage is not recognized. But this does not diminish the feeling of legitimacy felt. Larry posted his feelings on facebook.
“So as 2012 rolls on, and as we have a President who is now in support of marriage equality, I will return to Birmingham this weekend knowing that no matter what the State of Alabama says, I am married. They may fight me to the death over my rights that should be afforded to me, but they cannot take away my marriage, they cannot take away my husband, they cannot take away my love, and they cannot take away the support that Jeremy and I have from our families, our religions, and our community.”
Progress will happen, of that there is no doubt. The only questions are about the process and the time frame before people like Jeremy and Larry, who are legally married in one state, but not another; or the many other couples in our state who have no form of legal recognition, will have full marriage equality on the federal and state levels, regarding their relationships.
The President says it should be so.
Things are moving faster than many of us ever imagined.