For most of more than four decades as a couple, Elliott Mitchell and Clark West have lived quietly, building careers and sharing a deep love for their alma mater, the University of Alabama.
Mitchell, 65, and West, 60, met at UA in 1972 and have been together since. Married in Hawaii in 2013, they live in Sarasota, Fla.
"We've spent most of our lives together being quiet, because of business or not wanting to rock the boat," West said.
But for several years they have worried about opposition to same-sex marriage rights in their home state.
Those concerns have grown since the firestorm that followed a federal court ruling striking down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban, as judges and politicians scramble to deny and delay at every turn.
Mitchell and West are active alumni who gave $1 million to the university a decade ago. But two years ago, they dropped plans to leave their estate, which they say is worth about $15 million to $18 million, to UA.
They say the recent events here reinforce their decision, and they aren't sure they will ever spend another night in the state.
They fear that gay couples in Alabama face a long struggle for rights that won't end even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage this summer.
"They are going to contend every single right that inherently comes with that decision of the Supreme Court," Mitchell said. "If they can find a sufficient reason to delay those benefits, they're going to do it."
Those benefits of marriage, affecting spousal rights, taxes and finances, are what the debate should be about, they say.
"We never expect and never want people to change their religious views," Mitchell said. "Just give us a document that gives us the same rights as you have."
Some Alabama counties, but not all, issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples temporarily after the ruling in January by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade.
But the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a halt to same-sex marriages on March 3.
That decision came in response to a request from two groups, the Alabama Policy Institute and the Alabama Citizens Action Program.
Eric Johnston, a lawyer for ALCAP, said the law, at least for now, is on Alabama's side.
Johnston noted that even the Supreme Court decision in 2013 striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, hailed as a victory for gay marriage rights, indicated that it was up to states to define marriage.
Eighty-one percent of those voting approved Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage in 2006.
"We have a right in Alabama to define marriage," Johnston said.
West grew up in Dothan, son of a Southern Baptist minister. He said he has known he was gay since he was 3.
Mitchell is from Birmingham. His parents abandoned him and his siblings when he was 7, and he lived in the Baptist Children's Home in Troy.
Mitchell was moved to a group home in Birmingham when he was a teenager. He attended Banks High School, sold Cokes at Legion Field and fell in love with Crimson Tide football.
Both men found professional success after graduating from UA.
Mitchell rose to executive positions in the corporate world and later became a real estate developer.
West is a licensed mental health counselor.
They teamed up to build condo developments in the Florida panhandle for about 15 years, up until about 2005.
They have bought season tickets at Bryant-Denny Stadium for years.
About 10 years ago, they gave $400,000 each to UA's colleges of arts and sciences and business and $200,000 to the athletics department.
A few years ago, they floated to UA officials an offer to fund what would be a new community outreach center. Its mission, in part, would be to help members of the LGBT community. They got little response.
In 2013, they wrote a two-page letter to UA President Judy Bonner and the Board of Trustees, explaining why they were dropping their plans to leave their estate to the university. In part, it was because they saw no interest in advancing same-sex marriage rights.
"We understand the conflict of well-intended people struggling to find balance with this issue," they wrote. "But, we also realize there is no support in the legislature or initiatives at the University to create a dialogue. Instead, there is a very strong and continued effort by the state and the majority of its citizens to exclude this group in every way possible."
The university did not respond.
UA President Bonner issued a statement to AL.com when asked about the concerns of Mitchell and West and their decision to change their minds about leaving their estate to the university.
"Elliott Mitchell and Clark West have been loyal members of the UA family for many years, and we very much appreciate their unprecedented generosity and support for their alma mater," Bonner said.
"During my term as president of The University of Alabama, I have enjoyed several opportunities to talk with them, especially about the progress we have made regarding issues that are important to them. ... Elliott and Clark will continue to be valued members of the UA family, and we look forward to many years of working with them to make a difference in the lives of our students."
Mitchell said he understands that the university, dependent on state funding, must be sensitive to the whims of state politics.
But in their letter, he and West suggest the university could make a difference by taking up the cause of equality.
"You are welcome to share our situation with anyone you believe will be helpful in encouraging Alabama to provide equality to all its citizens," they wrote. "You have done it before and you can do it again. We do not want anything from you, just a recognition that all decisions have consequences."
Mitchell said the legal climate in Alabama is a key reason for not wanting to leave their money in the state.