After 42+ years together and living in the deep south, my partner and I can finally say we are married.

We never thought we would live to see this day, but we are still here. Meeting at the University of Alabama in 1972, we have kept our love alive all these years.

On June 26, 2015, we shared our joy with so many of our friends that have since become our family. Our biological family members, except for a few of the younger ones, are all quiet. The silence is deafening from Alabama, South Carolina and Louisiana where these family members reside.

On the 26th, we put down the banner carrying the nation’s shame and we proudly displayed the flag of power, beauty and love, which is the rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in the 1970s.

Elliott and I were quiet for several decades due to the fear of losing our jobs or from fear of being friendless. We felt like the LGBTQ community would never have a real voice in America. But after seeing that equality was actually possible a few years ago, we realized that being silent equaled death. We spoke out loud and we began to live loud as a wonderful man, Ed Madden, in South Carolina, taught us to do. And we won.

We indeed have pride and we celebrate this event all over the world. For generations, our culture has taught about the shame of being gay. In our states of the South, the fight continues. We now live in Florida with a loving and supportive community in Sarasota. Today, I can check the box “married” at any place we go and today we can now be southern, Chrisitan, and queer.

How about that?

Clark West and Elliot Mitchell are ACLU supporters who live in Sarasota, Florida.