Loving, committed Alabama couples gear up for the freedom to marry in their state at last

All across Alabama, same-sex couples are gearing up for the freedom to marry to come to their state on Monday, February 9, which will happen unless the United States Supreme Court does not extend the stay on the pro-marriage ruling from two weeks ago in the state.

Freedom to Marry is proud to have worked with Equality Alabama this year and especially in recent weeks. To learn more about how you can Take Action with Equality Alabama, click here.

This week we spoke with families from cities all over the state, who will either be thrilled to get married in Alabama, or are waiting for their marriages to finally be respected in the state. Read their stories here:

Amy & Alexis • Montgomery, AL

Amy and Alexis Vaughn are so excited that the freedom to marry is coming to Alabama. Amy is 15 weeks pregnant with the couple's first child, and after their wedding in Montgomery on October 5, 2013 (they later went to New York to get a marriage license for legal respect on a federal level), they know that at last, they'll be recognized as a married couple at home.

Amy and Alexis have had an exciting wedding journey - they were both featured on television's reality show Say Yes to the Dress. "We both said yes to two dresses," Alexis laughed. They said "I do" in front of their family and friends at home, and now they're excited to be at last respected in Alabama for what they are - married.

"Hopefully when our child is born I can be on the birth certificate since gay marriage is legal," Alexis said.

April & Robin • Woodstock, AL

April Dockery and Robin Vining seemingly met by fate – when they first laid eyes on each other, it was at a car lot that they both happened to be at. And then, throughout the next week, they kept unexpectedly running into each other. They hit it off quickly, and began dating. The couple has been together for almost seven years, and both of them help raise April’s children from a previous relationship. April and Robin can’t wait to get married when the stay is lifted in Alabama, and plan to get their marriage license as soon as possible. “Our relationship is just like any other relationship that’s out there,” April said. “That’s one thing I wish other people would understand. When we find our soul mates, we commit our lives to them – just like any other couple.”

Courtney & Morgan • Prattville, AL

Courtney Cannon and Morgan Plunkett have been engaged for two years, and can’t wait to finally get married in their home state of Alabama. Marriage would make it possible for both of them to become the legal parents of their one child, and make it easier for them both to be on the birth certificate of the child they hope to have soon. “I don’t think I should have to go to another state to get married,” Courtney said. “I should have the same rights as anyone else.”

Jessica & Chi • Birmingham, AL

Jessica and Chi Peoples have been building their lives with their seven-year-old daughter, Naila, in Alabama. he women got married in Connecticut earlier this year, but because Alabama still denies the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, their marriage is not respected in their home state. If the couple’s marriage is finally respected in their home state, they can finally protect each other and their daughter legally. "Everyone wants to believe that if you do what you're supposed to do, your family will be taken care of. But we don't have that safeguard - that every child can feel good about the home they come from,” Jessica said. “Isn't that what matters? I don't think that's who we are as Southerners."

Emmet & Allen • Birmingham, AL

Emmet was originally unsure about having a holy union with Allen, but after thinking about it for several months, he realized that he was completely committed to their relationship, so he realized it was a good idea. Later, they went to Illinois to get legally married, but that marriage is not respected in Alabama. The freedom to marry in their home state would mean that they would feel less concerned about taking care of each other. “Right after Allan and I got married in Illinois, my son called me,” Emmet said. “And I said we had gotten married and there was this pause. I said ‘We have been together 18 years.’ So he said ‘It's about time.’” The couple knows it’s about time for Alabama, too.

Kristie & Jennifer • Fairhope, AL

Kristie and Jennifer Ogle met in college in Tennessee, and became fast friends, but lost touch with each other when they both moved to other states after graduation. Then, five years later, they both moved back to Tennessee and began a romantic relationship. That was 22 years ago – and they’re still completely in love. When they moved to Alabama because of a job opportunity, they realized that they loved it there and wanted to start building a family. Their son, now 12, was born in 2002 in Mobile, and they want nothing more than to be able to get married where they welcomed their son into the world. The couple is thrilled that they may soon be able to make their family legal. “We have an obligation to build stability for our child,” Kristie said.

Ron & Ken • Birmingham, AL

One day, Ron got a call from a friend who said that he had been set up with someone on a dating website – but thought that Ron would be a better match for him. Although Ron initially laughed it off, that friend turned out to be right, and Ken and Ron hit it off quickly and fell in love. That was seven years ago, and they haven’t looked back. “This is who we are. We are two individuals who love each other for who we are, and our family loves us and our community loves us,” Ken said. “We have children and grandchildren and they’re in our lives and they love us too. My daughter calls him her second father. And we need the protection and the same rights as any other family would have.”

Jake & Shaun•Birmingham, AL

It's been a long journey for Jake Callahan and Shaun Gibbs. 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. 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. 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."

Ashley & Melisa • Fort Pane, AL

In 2010, Ashley Clines was preparing to be deployed in the Army. One day, her friend’s cousin visited the unit, and Ashley immediately noticed her. When Ashley returned from deployment, she reconnected with her friend’s cousin, Melisa, and they began a relationship. Although they’ve had a non-legal commitment ceremony in Alabama, they know that’s not quite enough. Ashley longs to be able to legally become a second parent to their four-year-old child, and that process would be extremely difficult without being married. The couple can’t wait to finally be able to wed in their home state. “We don’t have the money to travel out of state to get married,” Ashley said. “It’s really a relief that we will be able to legally get married."

Brooke & Ashley • Dothan, AL

Brooke Martin and Ashley Dunn have been together for four and a half years, and after raising their seven-year-old daughter together, they can't wait to finally make their relationship legal. "We share a home together, share bills together, we do things as a family together and most of all we make a life together," Brooke said. "Ashley and I have been wanting to complete our lives by getting married, but we have not been able to because Alabama does not allow it. This would be huge for us."

Alanna & Jacqueline • Mobile, AL

Alanna McCafferty and Jacqueline Brown met online while Alanna was stationed in the Air Force in Missouri over three years ago. Their relationship quickly grew, and the two bought their first home together in Alabama last year. They were married at the end of January in Florida -- right after they heard that a federal judge in Alabama struck down the marriage ban. Still, they went through with their wedding plans, fearing that the decision would be stayed. The couple hopes that the stay will be lifted on Monday, making their marriage legal in their home state just a few weeks after they were wed. "We are extremely proud to be a part of the progress of equality that's occurring in our lifetime and hope that one day soon, our state will recognize us as equals," Jacqueline said.

Carissa & Brittany • Dothan, AL

When Carissa Clements met Brittany Turner, she knew that they were meant for each other. Three years after they first met, they had a non-legal ceremony, making their vows to each other in front of their family and friends. Now, they could get married in the state where Carissa was born and raised. "We would love nothing more than to have a legal marriage," Carissa said. "We want to have the same benefits and protection as any normal couple that love each other. I am so excited that this is becoming reality and not just a dream."

Donnette & Stacey • Mobile, AL

When Donnette and Stacey Morgan met online, they knew that there was something special between them. There was one snag – Stacey lived in London. One year later, they were engaged, but were still struggling being away from each other – they constantly had to make trips overseas to be together. Finally, last year, the two were married in Iowa to start the process of obtaining Stacey’s permanent residence paperwork. They had a ceremony after the wedding in Alabama with their friends and family, but returning to their home state reminded them how devastating it was that they had to travel to another state to make sure that Stacey could legally remain in the country. “It has been a long, drawn out process,” said Donnette. “But we are still as strong as we have ever been in our decision to spend the rest of our lives together.”

Kiera & Shay • Mobile, AL

Kiera Willis and Shay French met three years ago, and they've never left each others' sides since. The couple, who are expecting their first child in April, can't wait to finally make their family legal in their home state. "We are in love and we deserve to marry just as any other couple" Kiera said. "The day we become legally married will be the best day ever and a great blessing toward welcoming our son into this world."

Randy & Jim • Madison, AL

Randy and Jim Barrett went through a lot just to be together -- in fact, Jim moved all the way from the Philippines to be with Randy. It was difficult to jump through all of the hoops necessary to obtain Jim's visa, but it was all worth it when they married in Oklahoma City last month. "It took a lot of trust, faith, and love to take the chance, but the payoff has been more than worth the risk," Randy said. "But we want to be recognized here as a married couple."

Renea & Paige • Gadsden, AL

Renea Hinds and Paige Rochus met online while Paige was stationed in the Coast Guard in Mississippi, looking for friends near there. The two of them hit it off right away, and they began dating. The couple helps to raise Renea’s two children from a previous relationship, and are deeply committed to each other and to raising a family – they had a commitment ceremony in 2013. However, they are still blocked from many legal protections of marriage -- Renea recently lost her full-time job and lost her insurance, so if the two of them were able to legally get married, Renea and her children would be able to be covered by Paige’s insurance. “I don’t need a piece of paper to prove that I love her, but it will be relieving to have these protections,” Renea said. “I’m proud of our state. It’s been a journey, but we are really proud.”