Tori and Shanté’s Story of LGBT Rights and Marriage Equality

June 26, 2015

A same sex couple standing arm in arm

With the Supreme Court's historic marriage equality decision last week, same-sex couples all over the US are celebrating. Finally, love wins! At Ben & Jerry’s, we wanted to share an intimate snapshot of the daily challenges and joys that Tori Sisson and Shanté Wolfe experience as the first gay couple to be married in Alabama— a state where LGBT individuals can still legally be discriminated against in housing, employment, and other areas. Their love of each other and their work as LGBT rights activists are an inspiration for this movement around the country. Tori and Shanté were two of the most honest, open and motivated people we’ve ever interviewed, so we wanted to share some of our conversation that didn’t make it into the video.



On Being the First Same-Sex Couple to be Married In Alabama

Tori: On January 25th, when Judge Callie Granade made the decision that she was lifting the ban on same-sex marriage in Alabama, it was kind of like, "Whoa. Well, on Monday we'll just go by the courthouse and get married before work, and then see you later."

But then it became a thing, because same-sex marriage being legalized in Alabama, before the Supreme Court made a decision— that was unlikely. Then for us to be two young, black, queer women, getting married— the first ones— that was beyond unlikely.

Shanté: When I think about what happened that night and how fortunate we were to have positive responses all night and into the morning, I’m humbled. And I’m at a loss for words, every time.

On Living Where Discrimination, After Marriage, is Still Legal

Tori: I think that it's important for marriage equality to be the law of all of the 50 states in America, because, after Judge Granade made her ruling, so many other people who have similar roles, titles and responsibilities have tried to completely scratch the decision that she made.

Shanté: I think the climate that the state has set for gay couples is an "at your own risk" mentality.

Tori: But really, marriage equality is only the beginning. Because after the Supreme Court decision, someone could still be evicted from their apartment for being in a same-gender, loving relationship. You can legally be fired. You can legally be kicked out of a restaurant or any public place. Get married on Monday…

Shanté: …get fired on Tuesday. That’s the saying around here.

Tori: All of the things that we fight for, we've experienced. After Shanté got in a car accident, she went to the hospital to get an x-ray, and before they do that they ask if you're pregnant. When she said "no," they questioned, "How do you know?" She said, "I'm married to a woman." At that point they stopped treating her. Because that happened to Shanté, that makes me so much more passionate, so much angrier, also so much more compassionate for those people— because they clearly just know not what they do. 

On Everyday Love as Activism

Tori: I do expect a marriage to be respected by the rest of society. So I don't expect for someone to respond with, "It's two girls. It's not real." Those are ways, little social ways that people can either choose to or not to respect that union.

Shanté: After we got married, there were a few times where I felt intimidated in public spaces. I felt myself retracting my hand from Tori, and then I had to stop and realize. I had to say, "I can do this, just like you can do it when you go to the movies."

Tori: People sometimes don't see us in the LGBT community as real couples. Like we really have feelings, and emotions, and compassion for each other, and responsibilities and duties to each other. The more we tell our stories, the more we humanize ourselves in the movement and to the public. We want to be real. It gets tiring sometimes. It gets overwhelming and frustrating. And then it's like, "Okay. We've got work to do. We just have to keep going.” And when it's done, I don't have to say that anymore. When it's done, we'll just be holding hands just to hold hands.

On Change in the South Inspiring Change Everywhere

Shanté: Normally we're out and proud. We were walking one morning in our neighborhood, and a lady stopped us and said, "Are you guys a couple?" And we said, "Yes." She said, "Well you guys go ahead." And she started clapping and being excited. It's the people like that that give us the courage to be ourselves, really, and you can't let others deter you from being yourself. I know that's easier said than done, but it's true.

Tori: We're in the middle of the Bible Belt, and people have a lot of varying opinions and ideas about what same-sex marriage means, and what it is to be a member of the LGBT community. If people could be less intolerant and more accepting, if that could happen in the South, in the United States of America, then the world has something to look at as an example that we can let lead us.

On Creating a Future You Want For Your Kids

Shanté: Hopefully by the time we have children, this will be just something that I'm like, "Huh, do you remember that happened? I can't believe we were crazy enough to even think about being that way. "

Tori: Really, all of our issues are so united as one, that there's no way to tell them apart. If you're not part of the change, you are part of the problem. And we have no interest in being part of the problem.

Shanté: Okay, girl. Get it.

We were thrilled to get to know Tori and Shanté and hear their inspirational story of love. We wish them heaping scoops of happiness!