To be published March 19, 2015 in The Crimson Crier
“I was such a wild one and I don’t know how she tamed me, but she did. She was the most beautiful person I had ever met and still is to this day—inside and out,” Seth, who identifies as a male, said.
On Jan. 23, 2015, Judge Callie V.S. Granada ruled in Searcy v. Strange that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Granada’s ruling left many shocked. When Ashley and Seth found out, they could not believe it.
“I was at work actually [when she read the news on Facebook.] I had to do a double take and read it over and over. I finally reposted it and tagged Ash,” Seth said. “I sent her a text message following that saying, ‘So…after nine years, you ready to do this thing?’”
He had always considered Ashley to be his spouse, but when the opportunity came to make it official, they jumped at the chance, partly because they felt the state would not allow same-sex marriage for long. After they discussed Seth’s proposal, they decided they would get married. The week before the wedding was a whirlwind of activity as the couple prepared to exchange their vows.
“I don’t even think we had a week’s notice, to be honest. It was a whirlwind of phone calls and running around trying to find shoes and clothes and everything. We didn’t have a moment to breathe,” Seth said.
The day of the wedding soon arrived. Seth showed his inner geek by wearing a Dr. Who tardis necklace as his “something blue.” Downtown Huntsville buzzed with euphoria as couples prepared for their nuptials and celebrated the historic decision, including the Rosarios.
“Alabama’s three first [married] same-sex couples being gathered in one spot was a golden feeling,” Ashley said. “After the agonizing wait for our certificate, we finally walked down the stairs of the courthouse to all of our friends, who greeted us with tears and nothing but support from everyone—from people we’ve met this year to people we met when I first moved in with Seth back in 2007.”
When they stepped out of the courthouse as the second same-sex couple to be married in the state, everyone was overcome with emotion.
“The cheers and applause and tears were amazing and touching. I finally broke down when I looked to my right and through all the cameras and people I saw my brother standing there. I told Ash to hold on and I ran to him and gave him the biggest hug,” Seth said.
They walked to Big Spring Park for their ceremony, surrounded by friends and family, reveling in what was to come. Seth had tried writing vows four times and could not think of anything, so he ended up making up his vows on the spot.
“What do I have to say when Ash has given me everything?” Seth said.
The overcast day did nothing to dampen the joy in the new couples’ hearts. In just a few short moments that felt like a lifetime, history was made.
“Everything around us disappeared as we kissed, and I really did feel like, on that day, dreams really could come true,” Ashley said.
However the road to their wedding day was not always smooth. Seth’s mother used to be very supportive. So much so that she marched with Seth and Ashley in a gay pride parade in Huntsville. Her brother, with whom he was very close, broke Seth’s heart when he told him he did not believe in same-sex marriage. Then, over the years, things changed.
“After nine years and Alabama allowing gay marriage, my brother tells me without hesitation he’ll be [at our wedding] and my mother is nowhere to be found, even though my step-dad was there and was all smiles,” Seth said. “Mom recently became a Jehovah’s Witness and doesn’t agree with my choices now. But that’s okay because I don’t need her judgment. I had my brother there as my best man and that was the second best thing about our wedding.”
When Ashley came out to her family, there was not as much drama. Her mother was reserved and hesitant at first, but the heartbreak was not as rough as Seth’s experience.
“I think all parents [want space] at first. She wasn’t unreasonable considering that I’m sure she had her own expectations of me, but I’m not sure that even she knew what those expectations were. If you were to ask her now, she’d say I’ve well exceeded her expectations,” Ashley said.
The two face some challenges living in the Bible belt as a gay couple. To Ashley, every day can be a struggle.
“We aren’t really a touchy feely couple, but when we try to hold hands at places like the mall, we get the funniest/dirtiest looks. I know that is everywhere, but here [in the South] it is more likely to happen,” Ashley said.
Ashley believes the allowance of same-sex marriage everywhere would be a largely progressive step for the nation. She calls for a wider acceptance of marriage equality, remaining disappointed with the segment of people who reject tolerance.
“America is a melting pot [filled with] all different colors, sizes and shapes. Overall it’s important for every human within this nation to have the right to pursue their own happiness with another person, whether someone approves of it or not,” Ashley said.
The future looks bright for the couple. The newlyweds plan to move to Salt Lake City to be closer to Ashley’s family.
“The only reason we stayed here for so long was because my father had Alzheimer’s disease and I didn’t want to leave him. He passed away August of 2013. I really wished he could have seen that wedding, but I know he was there in spirit,” Seth said.
James Robinson was present at the Madison County Courthouse the first day that same-sex marriage licenses were issued in Alabama.
“This was the most historic day in Alabama for the Civil Rights Movement since the early days in the 1960’s when so many historic events took place in Alabama. I was excited and overcome with joy for the loving couples that I greeted as they left the Courthouse,” Robinson said.
Six years ago, Robinson began rebuilding his life after years of substance abuse. He realized his life as a closeted gay man had been very painful and that the substance abuse was an attempt at dealing with this pain.
“I reflected upon my work experience as a special education teacher and my volunteer work as I talked to friends about needs in our community. I was developing the vision of creating a non-profit agency,” Robinson said.
While much of the feedback he received concerned homeless LGBTQ youth, Robinson discovered that since Huntsville did not have that issue, he would create an agency that would meet a variety of needs as they came to him from the community. From this idea, GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, which has since been rebranded as Free2Be, was born. They operate the Free2Be LGBTQ Resource Center, the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project and produce Rocket City Pride. Robinson’s goal is to use Free2Be to create a regional movement in support of the LGBTQ community and others.
“I envision a community free from domestic violence, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and other forms of violence. This is a vision of a community and society where all people are respected and given hope and love,” Robinson said. “In order to do this I work to raise awareness of the needs of the LGBTQ community and other underrepresented populations.”
Being the founder and Executive Director of a non-profit agency comes with many challenges and privileges. As both a civil rights activist and an agency leader, Robinson sometimes finds himself playing two roles at once.
“The privileges include the trust that many people show me when they tell me about their lives and their personal struggles, the tremendous respect that is given to me by other agency and community leaders, and possibly the greatest privilege is simply being able to fulfill my personal dream of living a life which benefits others and the world,” Robinson said. “The challenges are many and include the almost constant struggle to keep up the need to raise financial support and to be as available as possible to the community.”
When the Alabama Supreme Court became the first state to defy a federal court order by overruling the allowance of same-sex marriages in the state on March 3, a reporter called Robinson to notify him. He felt disappointed in the state’s elected officials, exhausted after working so hard to advocate for equality and acceptance, but within him, his purpose still remained.
“We must work to end all forms of discrimination in the United States of America,” Robinson said. “Our nation is built upon the principles of equality, social justice, and equal protection under the law. No citizen in this nation should be denied equal civil liberties and protections.”