Chris Richardson and Keith Garrett had been together for 18 years when they walked into Judge Anthony Russo's courtroom.
A throng of media, including Cleveland Magazine assistant editor Sheehan Hannan, had followed them up the winding staircase of the old Cuyahoga County Courthouse to witness their wedding ceremony.
Chris and Keith had considered getting married in Chicago, where same-sex marriage had been legal for more than a year. But they had built lives here and wanted their union to be recognized here.
Keith had even traveled to Cincinnati last August to rally against the same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. But since the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the bans, Chris and Keith had been watching and waiting, following along with the arguments before the U.S Supreme Court and anxiously hoping for a decision.
On June 26, Keith went to work like usual, assuming nothing would happen until Monday. Just as he arrived, however, Chris called: "It just happened." So Keith went straight to his boss, who simply said, "Go."
Clad in shirts and ties, Chris and Keith said their vows with tears flowing and hands clasped.
"By virtue of the authority granted to me by law, I now pronounce you a married couple," Russo proclaimed for the first time to a same-sex couple in Cuyahoga County. As the ceremony ended, they broke down in an embrace and, as if by some great transfer of emotional kinetic energy, the room erupted in applause.
Outside on Mall C, a dozen United Church of Christ ministers lined up in rainbow stoles. That's where Maureen Povinelli and Catherine Toth got married, in a ceremony that brought them both to tears.
When you read their story, along with those of the nine other couples in this month's "Love Reigns" feature, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Their photos, taken by three talented wedding and engagement photographers, almost vibrate with joy.
Love did indeed win. But that wasn't the only victory — especially for Chris and Keith. "Love was never in question," Keith told Hannan for a story that will appear online this month. "The legal part is what we sought."
And as we move into the next phase of equality for all, binding something so basic as love and marriage makes us stronger for the joys and struggles to come.
12:00 AM EST
August 13, 2015