ALABAMA -- While Alabama officials adamantly oppose a federal court's decision to strike down the state's ban on gay marriage, LGBT groups are celebrating victory in the Heart of Dixie.
"I think the fact that Alabama is now the 37th state in the union to have marriage equality says volumes about where this issue is heading," said Stuart Gaffney, communications director for Marriage Equality USA. "This is not an issue that is about blue states or red states; it's really about a growing nationwide majority that supports marriage equality."
After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to issue a stay on the federal court's ruling, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore told probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. That order hasn't held up under federal scrutiny, however.
"People's neighbors and coworkers are realizing that those wedding days bring a lot of joy to those couples and families who are able to marry, and don't actually affect anybody else," Gaffney said.
National support for legalizing same-sex marriage has continued to increase, with a 2014 Gallup poll showing 55 percent of Americans in favor of it. The same poll shows approval for legalization at 78 percent among young adults.
"Polling has shown time and time again that the majority of Americans recognize the importance of marriage and support marriage equality," said Hubert Tate, press secretary with the Human Rights Campaign. "We are looking forward to the Supreme Court deciding this matter once and for all this summer, bringing marriage equality to every corner of the United States."The U.S. Supreme Court
announced in January that it will consider the matter in April, and issue a ruling before the end of June.
Though the situation in Alabama has changed rapidly in recent weeks, it hasn't been anything surprising, according to Tate.
"There will always be opponents of equality, and those in Alabama are no different from those we've faced in similar battles across the country in our fight to expand LGBT equality," he said.
As gay marriage takes hold in Alabama, Gaffney compared it to interracial marriage in the state.
"One thing that's interesting to note about Alabama is that it was the last state in the union to repeal its law against interracial couples being able to marry," he said. "Interracial couples have been able to marry in all 50 states since the Supreme Court decision in 1967. Alabama did not remove that law from the books until 2000, which is quite recent. In a sense, this gives us kind of a map of social change."
Americans' perception of interracial marriage has changed drastically within a short space of time, and perception of same-sex marriage is going through a similar transition, Gaffney added.
"A generation later, it's unthinkable to us that you wouldn't be able to marry somebody of a different race," he said. "Attitudes have completely changed. We're seeing attitudes change that quickly or more quickly ."
Photo Source: ZUMA Press