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First gay couple to wed in Knoxville celebrates anniversary

One year ago, the Supreme Court made history by ruling marriage is right for all citizens under the Constitution, including gay couples.

On June 26, 2015, Jon Coffee and Keith Swafford went to the Knox County courthouse soon after they heard the news. Jon had proposed to Keith a few months earlier and they were planning a ceremony for later that year. But at the time of the engagement, they were unsure if their commitment would be recognized by the state of Tennessee.

One year ago, the Supreme Court made history by ruling marriage is a right for all citizens under the Constitution, including gay couples.

On June 26, 2015, Jon Coffee and Keith Swafford went to the Knox County courthouse soon after they heard the news. Jon had proposed to Keith a few months earlier and they were planning a ceremony for later that year. But at the time of the engagement, they were unsure if their commitment would be recognized by the state of Tennessee.

When the Supreme Court said all 50 states must recognize same-sex unions, Jon and Keith decided not to wait. They were the first gay couple in Knox County to get a marriage license.

“Are we allowed to hug you?” Jon asked the clerk on that day. The couple had an impromptu ceremony at their church, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC). WBIR showed their wedding live on TV.

“I don't know how many people can say they went to a rally to celebrate their wedding or they gave a press conference following their wedding,” Keith laughed.

“Yeah, that was pretty weird,” Jon said.

On their first anniversary, Jon and Keith are reflecting on their historical moment, but also the everyday moments they’ve made together.

“The thing was, we didn't set out to be the first couple in Knox County,” Keith said, “We got married because we wanted to get married, not because we wanted to make a statement.”

Their mothers put together a scrapbook for them full of newspaper clippings, photos, and notes of congratulations.

“Some of the kids at the church were so excited that they drew us pictures,” Jon said, looking at the crayon drawings.

One was from a little girl who has two moms. Jon, a ministerial intern at TVUUC, married her moms after his own wedding.

Jon has performed 25 weddings over the past year for gay couples.


“And that's just me. The other ministers have done a whole bunch of others too,” Jon said.

Jon and Keith have grown to appreciate their unconventional journey to be husband and husband. But even more, the couple is grateful to have our state and our nation recognize their commitment to each other.

“At the end of the day it's just about people that love each other. It's not about pushing society to accept something that's completely out there, it's just getting people to acknowledge that this is the person that I love,” Jon said.

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