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Q&A with First Same-Sex Couple to Get Marriage License in Shelby County

Chris and Bradley Brower discuss the Supreme Court marriage ruling.

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Chris and Bradley Brower made local history on Friday by becoming the first same-sex couple in Shelby County to receive a marriage license.

Chris, a nurse, and Bradley, a teacher, have been together for two years, and they had held a commitment ceremony at Holy Trinity Community Church just two weeks prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. On Friday, they made their marriage official with a visit to the Shelby County Clerk's Office.

The news of the high court's 5-4 ruling came down Friday morning, just after 9 a.m. The ruling overturned a November Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold gay marriage bans in Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. That court was the first federal appeals court to rule in favor of a marriage ban.

The split in decisions by appeals courts led the Supreme Court to take on the marriage issue in January, and their ruling finally came down last week.

The Flyer caught up with the Browers on Sunday afternoon at Tobey Park, where they'd just wrapped up their weekly softball game for the Bluff City Sports Association. — Bianca Phillips

Chris and Bradley Brower
  • Chris and Bradley Brower

Flyer: So you two had a formal wedding ceremony earlier this month?

Bradley: Our commitment ceremony was June 13th. We had a rustic theme. We had Ole Miss stuff [for decoration] at the reception, and our wedding [décor] was burlap.

Chris: We wrote our vows. I had eight groomsmen. He had eight bridesmaids.

Did you plan a June wedding because you were hoping for a favorable Supreme Court decision?

Chris: We'd heard [the decision would come down] sometime in June, so we thought, well, maybe it'll come by June 13th. It didn't happen, but we still had the wedding and went on a honeymoon. We went on a cruise, and we were hoping they'd have a decision by the time we got back.

How did you learn of Friday's decision?

Chris: One of [Bradley's] friends called and woke him up out of bed. I was out seeing patients. He called me, and he said, "It passed! We can get our license now." So I went home.

I assumed you two were waiting outside the clerk's office for the decision since you were the first couple to get your license.

Chris: We didn't even try to be the first ones. I had a 9-o'clock patient, and I saw that patient. And then I was driving home when he called and said [the ruling had come down], so we went to the courthouse. They told us it'd be 2-o'clock before a decision would be made [on how the clerk's office would be handling it], so they weren't issuing licenses. So we ended up leaving.

And then somebody from Channel 24 [who was at the clerk's office] called us and said they'd started issuing licenses. So we came back, and we were still number one in line at about 10:30. There were two couples coming in after us.

Bradley: If it wasn't for Channel 24, we would have waited until Monday.

Were the clerks supportive?

Chris: They were awesome, very friendly. They made it easy for us.

Bradley: They were very respectful and willing to help.

Did they have gender-neutral forms?

Bradley: It was the same forms they use for straight couples. They said "groom" and "bride."

Chris: He had to sign where it said "bride." I figure they'll correct that.

What marriage benefits are you most excited about?

Bradley: Taxes.

Chris: I'm just glad it's legal now. We should have the same rights as any other couple. Being married should be our right.

How surprised were you by the ruling?

Chris: I did not expect this in my lifetime.

Bradley: I knew it would happen. Love is infallible. But we never worried about the marriage part, because [whether or not we could get legally married] it wouldn't change anything between us.

Chris: But we are all one and equal now.

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