Exclusive: Patricia Todd talks about recent marriage and gay ma - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Exclusive: Patricia Todd talks about recent marriage and gay marriage in Alabama

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Looking over pictures of their Massachusetts wedding, Patricia Todd and her wife, Jennifer Clarke, are enjoying life together as one. 

"We did this because we wanted to make a commitment before our friends, family, and God about our love for each other," said Patricia Todd, Alabama's only openly gay state representative in an exclusive interview with ABC 33/40's Larry Miller.   

The wedding was officiated by Clarke's 25 year old daughter.  Each woman was escorted down the isle by a previous partner.  They say besides the fact that its two women committing their lives to one another, their relationship is no different than that of a heterosexual couple. 

"We have the same issues that every other couple does; money and all the things.  But we have a great relationship and a great trust for each other and a great support system. So, we work on everything that we think is an issue." said Todd.  

"I am very proud of my relationship with Patricia. I'm thrilled to be able to make such a public commitment to her," said Jennifer Clarke, Todd's wife. 
 
Todd said she and her wife are just one of hundreds of gay and lesbian couples in Alabama forced to travel to other states in order to get married.  

Alabama's Sanctity of Marriage Amendment defines marriages as a unique relationship between a man and a women.  The amendment also prohibits gay marriage in the state. Even same-sex marriages performed outside of the Alabama aren't recognized. For gay and lesbian couples, there is no legal protection under the law.
   
"To have lived in a state that has legal gay marriage and coming to a state that did not offer that has been somewhat of a culture shock for me," said Clarke. 

There have been some successes for same gender loving individuals. In June, the US Supreme Court called the federal government's Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and dismissed a gay marriage ban in California. 

"I never thought I would get married again but when the Supreme court decision struck down DOMA. It gave me a little ray of hope," said Todd. 

Feeling encourage about the growing acceptance of same-sex marriages and the legal wins in court, Todd prefiled a constitutional amendment that would repeal Alabama's ban on gay marriage.  She admits the likelihood that it will pass is slim to none.  If nothing less, the proposed amendment will help ignite a renewed conversation about gay unions. 

"We don't want anything more than any other couple does.  We just want equality," said Todd. 

Jeremy Rutledge, 24, of Pell City, also has a hand in trying to persuade state leaders to reconsider gay marriage.  He organized a petition on a website called www.change.org. According Rutledge, he has collected nearly 8,000 signatures.  The majority of those of signed the petition are from Alabama. His goal is 20,000 signatures that he will submit to Governor Robert Bentley's office, who has supported and defined marriage as a relationship between 'a man and a woman'. 
 
"Even though the chances are slim, its something that I feel obligated to fight for because I want that. I want the right to marry whomever I love.  So, I'm not going to give up," said Rutledge confidently. 

As an openly gay male, Rutledge has endured harassment because of his sexual orientation. He says what people fail to understand is that being gay wasn't something he chose. 

"People are quick to judge you for who you are. They don't realize  that we're all the same," said Rutledge.  

Todd and Rutledge acknowledge they're fighting an uphill battle in a state deeply rooted in Christian values.  They say they'll continue to fight for the sake of everyone, gay or straight, who call Alabama home. 


 

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