Butler County’s first same-sex wedding bonds two women

In about one minute — in a ceremony that started with the two women holding right hands and ended with a quick kiss — Butler County’s first same-sex couple wedding was held Tuesday in Middletown Municipal Court.

Keeya Estell, 26, and Dawnesha Sims, 23, who started dating seven years ago, were married by Middletown attorney Matthew Dixon because Judge Mark Wall was out of town at a conference. Dixon’s husband, T. Duane Gordon, attended the ceremony and after the wedding, as the couple stood outside the courtroom, he congratulated them and said he and Dixon were married three years ago in New York.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote last week that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage in Ohio and 12 other states. Since the decision, several same-sex couples have applied for marriage licenses, according to the probate courts in Butler and Warren counties. There have been 10 issued in Butler County and six in Warren County, officials said.

Sims’ parents, Christopher and Andrea Brown, of Middletown, attended the wedding as did Estell’s 7-year-old twins, son Kevin and daughter Karter. When the wedding ended, one of the twins banged the gavel on the judge’s desk and both started giggling. Estell said she had the twins with a man she had dated, then met Sims a few months later. They have been together ever since.

“The first time I saw her, I knew she was the love of my life,” Estell said. “We figured this was the time to go all the way with it.”

They had planned to wed last year in Washington, D.C., but pushed the date back and decided to hold the ceremony in Middletown, four days after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the ban on same-sex marriages in Ohio and 12 other states.

Sims admitted she was nervous before, during and after the short ceremony.

“We have been through our trials and tribulations,” she said. “But we will make this work.”

As Dixon, performing his first wedding, nervously read instructions off a sheet of paper, the two women held hands. He asked if they had wedding rings to exchange and they said they didn’t. They were called spouses, not husband and wife.

Later, as the two women stood in a hallway outside the courtroom, they were asked why they chose to get married after living together for years.

“It’s official,” Estell said. “It’s permanent.”

Estell said this was her first and last wedding.

Then Sims interjected: “Your only.”

To the ceremony, Estell wore a flowered dress, while Sims wore blue jeans and an untucked white shirt.

Estell said she was attracted to Sims because of her smile, her eyes, her heart. Sims called Estell the dominant, aggressive one in the relationship.

They plan to remain living in Middletown and possibly buying a home.

They were asked what they would tell those who disagree with same-sex marriage. Estell spoke up first: “Only God can judge me at the end of the day.”

Then they joined hands and walked out of the City Building, a married couple for the first time. But first Sims remembered what she learned a few minutes before.

“We were married by a gay man,” she said. “That was cool.”