In a crowded Chinatown bar on March 17, 1999, green beer sloshed in tall glasses.
Yelps from friends greeting friends and strangers acknowledging strangers bounced off the walls. And two men named Patrick wandered into the bar with two friends they thought would hit it off: Jay Brown and Kevin Adams.
And they did. Jay was impressed with Kevin’s ability to hold a real conversation amid the St. Patrick’s Day revelry. He asked for Kevin’s phone number and asked him out the next day.
Two good friends went along with them on their first date to see the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, but they didn’t need the backup. Jay and Kevin felt at ease with each other right away.
“What I realize now is that I wasn’t nervous at all because I was so comfortable being myself with him,” Kevin recalls. “That alone was so nice. I was also intrigued by the idea that he was actually interested in what I had to say.”
Jay, 50, a lawyer at Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz, adds: “I had dated a lot of lawyers before Kevin and, at the time, I was used to these speeches, soliloquies, but with him we could exchange ideas and talk about art and music.”
Things moved quickly. A few weeks in, just as they were sitting down for dinner, Jay got a call from friends asking whether he would be interested in buying their house in Adams Morgan, which Jay had admired for years. While looking across the dinner table at Kevin, Jay thought how nice it would be to go into such an investment with someone he trusted and loved.
“I think we had just about every one of our friends come up to us separately and tell us that we were crazy,” admits Kevin, 55, an artist who specializes in landscapes.
But by June, they were the proud owners of a fixer-upper with a great big porch on Kalorama Road.
For their one-year anniversary in 2000, Jay and Kevin invited friends over for a dinner party. But it was more than just a casual gathering.
“We planned what would otherwise be described as a wedding in our dining room,” Jay says. “When people showed up, it was only then that they realized that it was a commitment ceremony. At the time, we framed it like it was a celebration of the first in a lifetime of anniversaries.”
The two would live in that Adams Morgan house for six years, filling it with Kevin’s art and trinkets from their travels. As their love grew, their home grew. The house, Kevin says, “came alive.”
“We’re lucky enough to be one of those couples that doesn’t want a vacation from one another,” he says. “Whether it was snorkeling or a road trip, we constantly felt thrilled to be around one another.”
By the time 2005 rolled around, the two felt as though they had lived enough of their lives together in Washington. And after a three-month sabbatical for Jay, during which they traveled extensively through Italy and the South of France, both realized that the countryside felt more like home.
Jay and Kevin had frequented Virginia’s Rappahannock County for years, visiting friends for weeks at a time and taking advantage of the area’s antique shops and wineries. They initially considered building a weekend home there, but then a more permanent option appeared.
The Gay Street Inn, a bed-and-breakfast in Little Washington, Va., was being sold. Already familiar with renovation and refurbishing, Jay and Kevin were interested.
After indulging in a few of their favorite blackberry martinis, they decided it was the right time for them to move to the country. They would still have excuses to come back into the city — legal meetings, studio check-ins — but both knew they wanted their home to be in Little Washington.
Kevin and Jay ended up living in an extension of the inn, which had its own living quarters, dining quarters and kitchen. For eight years they managed the inn, redesigning it in a style that paid homage to its age — 100-plus years — and to its past as a farmhouse. By 2013, though, Jay and Kevin felt their work on the inn was complete, and they decided to sell it and move into a home of their own nearby.
In September 2014, while vacationing in Provincetown, Mass., Jay brought up the idea of marriage and formally proposed to Kevin at dinner. Then all they had to think about was whether it was legal to get married where they wanted.
“Obviously because of my profession, I was very aware of the legal benefits of marriage,” Jay says. “We brought it up whenever a state near us had passed a bill, but what really mattered was getting married in the place we call home.
“Right after the proposal, we were asking friends about when they thought things would get settled in Virginia, and they all gave us answers like June 2015, but then something really remarkable happened.”
On Oct. 6, 2014, news broke that the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to consider an appeal against same-sex marriage in Virginia.
“I mean, I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet, and suddenly we were faced with the idea that we really could get married near our home,” Kevin says with a laugh.
On Sunday, Oct. 12, Jay Brown and Kevin Adams were married in front of 16 friends and family members at the Inn at Little Washington. Printed in the wedding program were snippets from the court’s decision.
“Because of how we came to be married, that was a central importance,” Jay says. “We considered it very stirring language because it was explaining to our guests why everyone could basically be there that day. And that, to us, really informed the event that we were experiencing.”
After the ceremony, the guests trickled out of the room and into the reception to the strains of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.” For Jay and Kevin, it truly was.