“He’s into sci-fi, fantasy, and Dr. Who, and I’m into sitcoms, Grey’s Anatomy, and Orange is the New Black. We’re total animal hoarders. We’ve got four dogs. He has chickens and goats – I’m talking Farmer freakin’ Brown. He can go deer hunting, kill the deer, field dress it, start cooking a stew, and can crochet a blanket while the stew cooks.”
Corey Blount beams as he rattles on about his husband of three years, Kurt Smith.
“Kurt is a jack of all trades. He’s the fixer, and I do the cleaning. We don’t fight. We love to go to Memphis and go to the Asian grocery stores there. We’re NPR freaks – we hardly ever listen to music,” he says in one breath, before summing it all up in a sentence I almost miss because it’s said so resolutely.
“He makes me want to be a better person.”
MARRIED ON JUNE 29
Blount and Smith were the first gay couple to obtain a marriage license in Oxford and were married in Oxford back in June 2015 when the same-sex marriage ban was first struck down. Blount remembers the day well.
“When we found out on Monday morning that it had been legalized in Mississippi, Kurt called me and asked, ‘Do you want to go to courthouse and get married?’” Blount said.
Blount said the two had talked about it over the weekend going to the grocery store, and it wasn’t until that moment that it actually became a reality for the couple. When the question arose, Blount responded, “Of course.”
After they got married, Blount came back to his office in Martindale and called his parents.
“It took them a second to wrap their heads around it,” he said. “It was quite a ride and a rush.”
Smith described it as a rare moment when the opportunity and timing were “right to do something actively without having to be an agitator.”
“We had the opportunity to do something on a human level that all people should have access and a right to for the first time,” he said. “For me, it was being able to make a statement of equality and humanity without having to make a statement of being pissed off about something.”
They hadn’t planned on making history that day, which seems to be a common theme for the couple. They were just doing what any other couple in love would want to do – get married.
‘NOTHING HAS CHANGED’
Three years later, Blount stresses that nothing much has changed. As I inquire more about what’s been going on with the couple since that day at the courthouse, Blount says, “You’re going to have a boring story because honestly, nothing changed for us.”
They still live on their small farm in Denmark, a community just outside of Oxford. They still live with a menagerie of animals, according to Blount. They’ve just gotten more dogs. “Life is normal,” he says. But that is exactly how it should be.
“I think it’s been a victory for the cause of equality that we’ve set a new baseline for normalcy,” Smith said. “Generations of kids nowadays don’t have to live in a world where [same-sex marriage] is a battle and a dividing line. They’re going to get married with the same blasé normalcy that their parents had.”
Blount said one of the couple’s goals is to “normalize stuff.”
“Yes, it is important to have recognition of the past and what we need to do as a society to grow, but we’re normal people,” he says. “We present ourselves as normal everyday people, so there was absolutely nothing that changed for us [after we got married]. Life is still just school and work.”
Blount, an Access Services Coordinator/Interpreter at UM, and Smith, project coordinator for the Office of Global Engagement on campus, are both working on their PhD degrees, and spend much of their time on their respective jobs or schoolwork or pushing each other to achieve their best.
Described by Blount as “two puzzle pieces,” the couple couldn’t be more different.
Smith is quiet and reserved, while Blount’s bubbliness is obvious on first encounter. Their hobbies starkly contrast, as Smith prefers outdoor activities and Blount prefers being indoors. Blount’s conversations are hilariously dotted with “bless your heart”s while Smith prefers to state how he feels matter-of-factly.
“We don’t like doing anything together,” Smith joked, before catching a stern look from Blount.
“He’s so wonderful and patient, and I am not so patient,” Blount explained. “I’m very Irish and emotional, and sometimes I say things I shouldn’t. There’s no filter sometimes. We’re perfect complements of each other. Everything the other is not, the other is. We fit.”
Though their differences are stark, somehow they’re compatible, a unique characteristic that isn’t lost on those around the couple. Their colleague and friend Robin Yekaitis said that the two’s relationship thrives off their contrasting personalities and interests.
“I do think they value each other’s faith and time. Both of them will do little surprises for each other, which can be making a special dinner one night or writing a poem,” she said. “They have different interests but their interests also work together.”
Smith agrees that these differences are the opposite of a detriment to their relationship – they bring the couple closer together.
“I don’t think it’s about finding common ground. Relationships are about being with somebody who is different from you or else you sit around all day agreeing with each other,” Smith said. “He challenges me, and I challenge him. We have interesting discussions and opinions, and we balance each others’ lives out.”
A SHARED FAITH
One thing the couple shares is their faith, a theme that has remained constant throughout their relationship.
“I prayed really hard when we first got together,” Blount said.
Smith was raised Pentecostal, and Blount grew up Southern Baptist, but both converted to Catholicism later in life. Though Blount jokingly refers to himself and Smith as “lazy sinners” who don’t go to church as much as they should, their faith is something they both value.
In fact, Blount believes it’s their duty as a religious couple to show everyone that God is love and what they have together is love.
“I think Christianity sometimes had a bad reputation,” Blount said. “Christianity is love, and, bless our hearts, we don’t always show it.”
Looking towards the future, the couple is starting to talk about children and building a new home, topics they didn’t really think about before they were married.
As for Oxford, they want to call it their home for many years to come.
“I never thought I’d get married to a guy in Oxford, but here we are three years after it. I think we have come a long way,” he said. “Hopefully in the next few years we’re going to buy some land and build a house. The one we have now is pretty old. We want something that’s ours because we love it here. We want to retire here in Oxford. This is where we want to be.”
While they’ve lived here, the couple says that they’ve never had a negative experience, but they acknowledge, “Where there are people, there will be hate.”
“Where there are differences there will always be someone who doesn’t like that difference,” Blount said. “That is the same with us and our relationship and our marriage. Wherever there is a minority, there are going to be people who want to keep that minority oppressed. While strides can be made, we’re always going to be an imperfect society.”
Regardless, Blount’s goal is to continue spreading love and understanding in his community, answering invasive, ignorant questions with compassion.
“Society as a whole in accepting difference and understanding individuals, we’re certainly a lot further along that what we started with. In the South, yeah, it’s hard, and you’ve got the people who don’t want to bake the cakes.”
Blount looks at me, rolls his eyes and delivers, “Well, then, don’t go to them to get your damn cake, child.”