Steven W. Coats was not too keen about signing up for yet another dating app. “I had been single and tried several dating apps to great disappointment. A former partner nudged me for six months to try Hinge, but I was skeptical,” Steven says. But he decided to give it a go just the same.
“To my surprise, I met Travis within about two weeks of being on the app. Looking back, I have to eat my words of cynicism that all dating apps were just fronts for superficial nonsense,” he says. It was August 26, 2020, when the two began talking, and it wasn’t long before they knew it was love.
Travis J. Miller says that, aside from realizing that their core values were aligned, he also knew he had finally found someone who accepted him for who he is. But that wasn’t all. “We both have the same passion for rescuing dogs, and both wanted to have a dog rescue in our future,” he adds.
Though glad that gay marriage was finally legal, Steven had doubts that a relationship with that level of commitment was in his future. “I did not think I would meet a person with whom I wanted the full transparency, property rights, and other privileges that come with legal marriage. But Travis was that person,” Steven says.
The night that truly sealed the deal was when Steven was grilling steaks for friends, lost track time of time, and ruined them. “I was so disappointed in myself and upset that I couldn’t offer my guests a delicious meal. I remember making eye contact with Travis. He looked at me and stretched his arms toward me with an invitation that seemed to say, ‘Come to me. It’s okay. I love you anyway.’”
Travis explains that it was Steven who proposed to him. “We had a pool party and cookout gathering at our house for my 36th birthday. Everyone was gathered outside and he played an arrangement of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” that was shown on Schitt’s Creek. He used that song as a call to gather everyone around. Steven got down on one knee and gave a touching proposal to me and to all who witnessed, dripping wet in our bathing suits.”
Since they share a dream to own a dog rescue, the two made a special request of their wedding guests. “We asked that, if guests were so inclined to bring a wedding gift, they bring a monetary donation. We had such a good response that we were able to use those gifts as the down payment on the land that we purchased in December 2022 where we will build our new home and onsite dog rescue,” Steven says.
Travis, 37, from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, is a graduate of SUNY Onondaga Community College and is a physical therapist assistant at Empower Me Wellness, a rehabilitation and assisted living facility in Atascocita.
Steven, 52, holds a BA in psychology and an MA in clinical psychology from Midwestern State University, as well as a PhD in school psychology with specialization in neuropsychological evaluation from Texas Woman’s University. He is a licensed psychologist in Texas practicing forensic psychology in criminal law for the Competency and Sanity Evaluation Unit serving the Harris County Criminal Courts in Houston. Steven is from Vernon, Texas.
The two were wed on September 24, 2023, at Hidden Pines near Lake Houston with Reverend Michael Knowlton officiating. The couple, of course, wanted an LGBTQ-friendly venue. “The wedding consultant said that they have booked other weddings for our community, but this was her first and she was so excited. She even reassured us by pointing out on printed materials as well as on their website that they are an equal opportunity business and don’t discriminate,” Travis says.
For both Steven and Travis, one of the best moments of the wedding was the “laying on of hands.” “The idea is that the faith community makes an outward, visible show of support for a newly ordained pastor by gathering around him/her, placing their hands as a group on the person’s head/shoulders/arms/back, and offering a prayer of blessing,” says Steven, who grew up with the tradition.
In a less traditional but also favorite moment during the vows, “I broke out in song singing, ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody,’ from the late Whitney Houston. Everyone in attendance, without being cued, joined in unison as we sang a brief part of the chorus,” Steven says.
It was very important to both of them that the wedding be a ministry of love for everyone there. “We organized the wedding around the theme of ‘Choose Love.’ So it was important that we showed love to our guests and that they felt a part of the ceremony and celebration,” Steven explains.
The guests were an impressive reflection of the couple’s love and respect for all people, with guests ranging in age from adolescence to 80s; Christians of all types, including conservative, liberal, Protestant, and Catholic, as well as Muslim, atheist, agnostic, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, blue collar, white collar, redneck, and metrosexual friends and family.
It was a day of love and diversity and connection for a two men who knew right away they had found their happily ever after. “Steven is a very empathic person who is able to feel how someone could be feeling and is a very emotionally expressive person,” Travis says. “He also loves dogs, and without that, we would not have made it past the first lunch date.”
“Travis is so gentle. I call him my ‘sweet man.’ I also tease him that I rank second to our seven dogs, but I’m still glad to wear the wedding ring,” Steven says. “He’s also keenly in tune with my feelings; I can’t hide if I’m feeling sad or stewing about something. Best of all, I feel like I can just be myself with him.”
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