Adam knew nothing real could happen between him and the man with the gorgeous blue eyes.
He had left Philadelphia and the University of the Arts for the second time in a year, the first to care for and cherish the remaining time with his ailing father, the second when grief over his dad’s passing left him lost and unable to focus on acting classes.
Adam, healing with his mother and brothers in suburban Boston, had no idea why Brad, who lived hundreds of miles away in Washington, would send him a dating app message. But what was the harm in talking to a cute guy?
Brad knew nothing real could happen between him and this man with the dark hair and bright smile. That’s what made it perfect.
He wasn’t quite through the recovery phase of a relationship gone wrong. And, after serving as a congressman’s press secretary, then communications director of the Human Rights Campaign, he was launching his own public relations firm — the predecessor of LUNA + EISENLA media. The great support of his family was far away in rural Oklahoma.
Brad needed a light and fun distraction — like a flirty correspondence with someone artsy, handsome, and safely far away. And so in May 2011, he hit send on an electronic hello.
Their app messages gave way to texts and long phone conversations. It wasn’t enough for Brad to know Adam was an actor, he needed to know how he got into acting, and what made him decide to study the craft. Adam had never met anyone from Oklahoma, and he wanted to hear every detail of Brad’s experiences growing up in Wagoner. Each delighted in examining the other’s worldview and learning his family lore.
Their talks soon meant much more than either had expected. Six months after their chats began, Brad issued an invite he expected Adam to decline: a weekend visit in D.C., so they could meet in person.
Adam boarded a bus. The weekend stretched into a week. And then all the men could talk about was Adam’s next visit.
“I could see in his eyes that he saw me, which was both intoxicating and terrifying,” said Adam. “I had never experienced anything like that.”
“Adam is an old soul,” said Brad. “Being the son of an immigrant, and going through his dad’s death, at just 19, he was wise beyond his years. I got the best of both worlds, this really attractive guy who was younger than me, but still, to this day, I think is emotionally as developed, if not more developed, than I am.”
Two weeks and another eight-hour bus ride later, Adam was back for another visit. Very late on the last night, the couple had their most serious conversation yet: They didn’t want to live apart anymore. It made the most sense for Adam to join Brad in D.C., they agreed. But Brad stepped outside of what he hoped for to make sure this was also right for Adam.
“It was moving really fast, and I felt it was the bigger risk for him — he would be moving into my world.”
After Brad spoke of his concerns, Adam spoke of his late father. In his 20s, Abel had boarded a plane from Tunisia to Boston. That risk had led his dad to his mother, Mary Beth, and to their children and the life they built together. “I remember thinking, if my dad did that, I can do this, and there’s no reason not to,” said Adam. “When life gives you these types of opportunities, you should just take them.”
Thinking about Abel and Mary Beth made Brad think about his own parents, Bill and Sue. They were pen pals for months before meeting in person when Bill came home on leave from a military base in Germany. They have been married for more than 50 years. “We kind of did the 21st-century version of writing letters back and forth like my mom and dad,” Brad realized.
That November, Adam moved in. In 2015, he asked Brad to take a similar risk for him, and the couple moved to Philadelphia. Adam finished his acting degree and has also earned a master’s in social service from Bryn Mawr. He just passed his licensing exam and hopes to soon work as a psychotherapist.
At Christmas in 2016, Brad showed Adam’s mother the ring he had bought and got her blessing. The couple spent New Year’s 2017 in Iceland. After a day of snorkeling in the Continental Divide, Adam finished unpacking his suitcase, then returned to the living area of their cabin to find Brad kneeling.
Adam told him he didn’t need him to kneel, but Brad stayed put and asked, “Will you marry me?”
“Yes! Of course,” said Adam. They celebrated over pizza at the only open place they could find.
Adam and Brad chose their wedding date — June 6, 2020 — almost immediately. Their Christmas cards for 2018 included a save-the-date message, which was followed by official save-the-dates in 2019, and wedding invitations in February 2020. One hundred guests would join them for a ceremony in the garden at the Powel House in Society Hill, followed by a dance party at the DoubleTree.
Just weeks after the invites went out, the pandemic hit. Even before the state said they could not have a large gathering, the couple knew they could not put friends and family at risk.
They will, on some safe day in the future, have a grand gathering. They did, on June 6, get married — at the Church of Saint Luke & the Epiphany, where Brad is a member. Eight guests spread out in the huge sanctuary while 50 more watched them exchange vows on Zoom.
“Ultimately, all of the bells and whistles, all of that planning that we did, that didn’t matter,” Brad said. “What mattered is we were there together.”
Both were cognizant that not long ago, their wedding could not have legally happened.
Adam had protested at the Massachusetts State House for the right of all people to marry. Brad had played a role in the Human Rights Campaign’s marriage-equality efforts. Now, as husbands, they walked up the aisle and out the doors to 13th Street, where thousands of Philadelphians were marching together in a Black Lives Matter protest.
Protesters cheered for the newlyweds. The newlyweds shouted back in solidarity.
Then, Brad and Adam returned to their Center City home to begin two weeks of quarantine, receive two negative COVID-19 tests, and drive 22 hours straight to Oklahoma and Brad’s parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephews, who had also isolated — plus a decorated house and a giant wedding cake.
They are now hunkered down again, preparing for a second set of COVID-19 tests and a second nonstop drive, this time to Massachusetts and Adam’s three brothers, his nana, and his mother and her husband.