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Not Just Puppy Love

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After meeting at a pet store, Jason and John Barron-Ethridge went from the closet to a flash-mob marriage proposal.

By Henry V. Thiel  

Jason Barron met John Ethridge several years ago when he stopped at a mom-and-pop pet store to buy food and treats for his two Labrador retrievers.

Jason Barron-Ethridge is a Sugar Land firefighter and John Barron-Ethridge is a pet-store manager.

“It was love at first sight for both of us,” Jason says.

Despite the setting, it wasn’t just puppy love. But there was one major complication. “John and I were both in the closet when we met,” Jason says. “I had dated several girls in the past, because I was confused and refused to accept who I was.

“John was the first guy I ever dated,” he adds. “I was John’s first as well. John had several girlfriends, but had never actually dated either sex.”

Jason says when the couple went out together in public, they agreed that if they saw family members, they would say they were either friends or coworkers. “It was hard being in the closet and dating in public,” he says. “Coming out was difficult and stressful for both of us, since it seemed like we were living a lie to our friends and family. Our friends and family, however, were very caring and accepting of us—even though there were a few people who were not pleased with our relationship.”

Jason says he knew John was the one after they went on a cruise to Hawaii with his family in 2013. “It was because of John that I came out,” Jason says. “I had never planned on coming out. I had to come out so that I could tell everyone who I was taking with me on the family cruise trip, and why.  My family treated John as if he was part of the family, even though they barely knew him at the time.”

The couple had been dating for a few years when Jason decided to propose during a trip the couple took to Las Vegas so he could run a half marathon. “John had seen the flash-mob proposal a couple of guys did in a hardware store that he thought was just amazing. So knowing how much joy it brought him, I decided I would propose the same way,” Jason says.

Jason found Flash Mob Las Vegas online, and he says the company was excited to have them as its first gay couple. “The first thing they asked me to do was choose a song for them to dance to, a song for me to propose to, and a song for the celebration after he said yes,” Jason says. “Typically, people were selecting ‘I Want to Marry You’ by Bruno Mars, but I wanted to be different.”

Because John likes country singer Luke Bryan, Jason chose “Drunk on You” for the flash mob to dance to. He picked Canaan Smith’s “Love You Like That” for the proposal, and “Turn Down for What,” by DJ Snake and Lil Jon, for the proposal—“because I love going crazy when that song comes on the radio. Plus, I figured everyone would join us in dancing to it, which they did, as you can see in the video,” John says.

“So, on November 26, 2014, in front of our family and friends, along with everyone on the Vegas strip, I proposed. John was totally shocked, and everything was perfect.”

Nearly 60,000 people have watched the proposal on YouTube, which can be found at tinyurl.com/jasonjohnflashmob.

Jason and John were married in Hawaii on September 24, 2016, on Maui’s White Rock Beach. James Kirkman was their officiant.

“When we began planning our wedding, gay marriage wasn’t legal in Texas. We knew Texas would be one of the last states to approve it, so we began thinking of a place that was important to us,” Jason explains.

The couple also knew they wouldn’t be able to marry in a Methodist church, since their denomination doesn’t allow same-sex weddings.

“So we decided to marry in Maui, where we had been with our whole family back in 2013,” he says.

“The most special moment of the ceremony for us was when we passed our rings to our friends and family so they could each hold them and pray over them before we gave them to each other,” he adds. “We also wrote our own vows and read them to each other. There wasn’t a dry eye on the beach.”

The grooms relied on HawaiianIslandWeddings.com to make all the arrangements. “The wedding was perfect,” Jason says.

The native Houstonians reside in the home they bought in Spring before they were married.

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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