|Keith Garrett and Chris Richardson|
Keith Garrett and Chris Richardson were the first same-sex couple to tie the knot in Cuyahoga County. Though they professed to be marrying simply to give their 18-year relationship the weight of legality, things got a little emotional when the pair broke out in tears and embraced in Judge Anthony Russo’s courtroom. We spoke with them about what it means to finally be legal and finding acceptance in family.
Keith: We never really sought any kind of religious acknowledgement. We never sought religious matrimony. Our relationship wasn’t based on any of that. We have a strong relationship — we didn’t need that. What this was important for was getting the legal recognition that traditional couples get just by having a marriage license. There are something like 1,100 rights that it automatically conveys. There’s only so much you can do with powers of attorney and rights of survivorship. That sounds cold, because you’re not talking about any love there. But the love was never in question. The love never needed to be recognized publicly. The legal part was what we sought.
Chris: My mother is very supportive. My parents got divorced when I was very young. My father, he is as supportive as I could expect him to be. He turned 70 this year, and he grew up in a very small town in the mountains of southwest Virginia. He grew up with those values where being gay was unheard of. It was instilled in him at a very early age that it was unacceptable. Without diving into some of the things that he said to me when I came out to him, he has come a long way. When we first got together, we went out to eat, and my dad would talk to him without actually looking at him. We sat at a square table, across from him and my stepmom, and she wouldn’t look [Keith] in the eye. And two years ago, they came up here and stayed Labor Day weekend with us. The fact that they came up was huge. I actually went down recently to see my dad, and he made a comment, basically saying, ‘You know I don’t like the fact that you’re gay, but if this is what makes you happy I support you.’ That is more than I ever thought he would say. — as told to Sheehan Hannan
Editor’s Note: In the September issue of Cleveland Magazine, we interviewed 10 same-sex couples who were engaged or married following the June 26 Supreme Court decision. Check back every Wednesday for more stories through Sept. 30. For all the stories in this series, click here.