Oakland County couple waited '12 years and 18 days'

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Correction: The story has been updated to correct the spelling of Augie Paniagua's name.

Pontiac — The civil ceremony was brief but very historic for Oakland County.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Friday, Matthew Keiser, 45, and Charles Hoover, 47, both of Royal Oak, were the first same-sex couple to wed in the county following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the ban against such marriages.

The two Royal Oak men exchanged vows in the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Auditorium, with County Clerk Lisa Brown officiating the ceremony, surrounded by news media.

"We're married, I can't believe it," gushed a grinning Keiser, after the pair exchanged rings and embraced. "Can you believe it?"

Hoover, who fought back tears during the emotional four-minute ceremony, noted they had only waited "12 years and 18 days for this day." That was how long the two have lived together but been unable to wed. They missed a brief opportunity in March 2014 before court clerks across Michigan were instructed not to issue any more license applications.

Brown, who opened her office on a Saturday more than a year ago to officiate at 133 same-sex marriages, waived the normal waiting period for anyone who wished to get married on Friday.

"I don't know how many I will do today but I am available," said Brown, who noted she was so emotional that she was shaking during the Keiser-Hoover vows. "These people have had to wait too long already."

In a nearby hallway, Breanne Brodak, 26, and Cortney Tucker, 25, both of White Lake Township, waited their turn to get hitched by Brown. The two women have been a couple for six years and missed out applying for a marriage license in 2014 because they were moving and thought they had plenty of time.

"I didn't want to miss this opportunity," said Tucker, explaining why they rushed to the clerk's office on Friday about 10:30 a.m. after hearing the news from Washington, D.C.

David Batlemento and Augie Paniagua beat them to the clerk's counter. The Bloomfield Township couple had been to a yoga session Friday morning and on the way to Costco when they took a detour to the clerk's office shortly after 10 a.m.

"We were going shopping when we heard the news and headed right here," said Batlemento, 50, holding the long-coveted marriage application. "We wanted to get an application as soon as we could."

"We don't have to hide anymore," said Paniagua, 60. "This is a very important day."

The pair politely declined Brown's offer of a ceremony.

"We already have a date planned — July 21 — the day of 25 years together," said Batlemento. "We will marry in the backyard of the home where I grew up."


(248) 338-0319