Alabama dads cheer on marriage ruling

Jake Callahan & Shaun Gibbs • Birmingham, AL

EDITORS' NOTE: This post was produced in partnership with Equality Alabama, the statewide organization working on behalf of LGBT Alabamians. Click here to see how you can get involved with Equality Alabama's marriage work. 

At the beginning of January 2015, Jake Callahan and Shaun Gibbs were excited at the prospect of finally getting married this year - they closely watched the joyous first day of the freedom to marry in their neighboring state of Florida, and they planned to cross state lines later in the year and at last say "I do," after eight years together. They were hopeful to finally have some semblance of protection for their family - the two of them and 4-year-old Matthew - although they knew they would not be respected as a family where they live, in Alabama, the state where both men were born and raised.

Then, in late January, before they could arrange the Florida wedding, Shaun and Jake were delighted by major news closer to home: A federal judge had struck down Alabama's marriage ban, and the freedom to marry would finally arrive in their state in February. The men were stunned and excited, moved by the idea that they'd finally be recognized as a family in Alabama.

It's been a long journey for Jake and Shaun. After meeting eight years ago and quickly falling in love, Jake moved in with Shaun, and Shaun gave Jake a commitment ring, hopeful one day they would be able to legally marry.

"I knew I wanted that long-term commitment," Jake said.

Jake has been excited that Shaun is now a part of his large family. "I'm a big momma's boy," Jake laughed, adding how much he admires his mother, who raised him as a single parent. "She loves Shaun and thinks of him as part of the family, since, of course, he is. She knows that he keeps me level-headed." 

As they built their lives together, Jake and Shaun looked forward to having children - Jake is the baby of seven, and he had always imagined having kids of his own, although he feared the roadblocks he would face as a gay men. In July 2013, Jake's sister, who had a two-year-old son named Matthew with whom Jake and Shaun had bonded closely, passed away, and the couple followed through on previous conversations with Jake's sister that they would adopt Matthew if anything ever happened to her.

"We stepped up to the plate to adopt him," Jake explained, adding, "It's bittersweet having a part of my sister so prominently in my life and being a parent myself at the same time."

Jake and Shaun are hopeful that once they marry in Alabama, they can finally be more secure in their legal rights as parents. Right now, Jake is Matthew's legal guardian, and while he could more easily adopt a a blood relative, it's much more challenging for Shaun to gain a legal connection to Matthew. They're hopeful that together, once they're married and recognized at home, they can adopt Matthew in Alabama. And they're excited to finally have the chance to be treated equally by the state they love. 

"We'd like to be legally recognized as a couple," Jake said. "We'd like to be able to share that commitment to the world."