The LGBTQ rights movement hit a milestone this month, when former Miss America Deidre Downs Gunn married Abbott Jones in a ceremony at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama. The wedding, which took place April 14, was kept a secret at first, but now the photos from the big day reveal something out of a great, big Southern daydream.
Downs Gunn told People the story of their relationship, which began online in February 2017. She proposed to Jones less than a year later, on Christmas, right after the Doctor Who Christmas special. The couple quickly left on a romantic honeymoon to Ireland right after the wedding, while their wedding quickly captivated the LGBTQ community and allies across the country. You can see why — in the pictures that the wedding photographers, Kelli & Daniel Taylor Photography, released to Bustle, the couple couldn't look any happier or more in love.
When Downs Gunn was crowned first as Miss Alabama and then as Miss America in 2005, same-sex marriage was still a far-off dream for most people in the country. The year before, then-president George W. Bush had announced he would support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, according to CNN.
Even though Alabama was required to make same-sex marriage legal in 2016 because of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case, the majority of Alabamans still don't approve of it, AL.com reported.
According to a 2015 study by the Public Religion Research Institute, Alabama tied with Mississippi as the states with the lowest levels of public support for same-sex marriage, at 32 percent in favor. When compared with more socially liberal, northern states like New Hampshire (75 percent in favor) or Washington (63 percent in favor), it becomes clear exactly how low that number is.
While that study was completed just after Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage across the country, AL.com reports that there's still a high level of resistance in Alabama even now, almost three years later — but in their interview with People, Downs Gunn and Jones didn't mention anything about how some onlookers might view their wedding as something different than any other wedding.
In trying to determine why there is still resistance to same-sex marriage, AL.com spoke with Dr. Joe Godfrey, the executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, a Birmingham-based religious lobbyist group.
"It's because there is more biblical literacy in Alabama than most other places," Godfrey said. "The Bible clearly teaches us that marriage is between one man and women for life. Everyone teaches that, people grow up believing that. No one is willing to change the Bible around here."
AL.com's research, then, backs up Godfrey's opinion. Alabama has one of the highest rates of churchgoing in the country, and Alabama-based LGBTQ rights activist Mario Burton also agrees with Dr. Godfrey on that front.
This is a lasting issue for same-sex couples in Alabama — as of 2017, Ballotpedia wrote that there were still seven Alabama counties refusing to issue any marriage licenses in order to avoid giving them out to same-sex couples.
However, there's at least a chance that the very public and celebrated same-sex wedding of a beloved member of the state community could change at least a few minds.
“I feel overjoyed to have found someone to share life’s adventures,” Downs Gunn told People. “The wedding was beautiful and special, but it was really just the beginning of our life together. I’m so lucky to have a wife who fills even small, everyday moments with great joy.”
“Saying our vows in front of our family and friends and making that commitment to the love of my life was the most meaningful part of the day for me,” Downs Gunn added, in the same interview.
Based on the pictures, her family and friends were evidently thrilled for her and Jones — and much of the United States is right there with them. Perhaps they even got their home state on board, as well.