RIGHT TIME RIGHT PLACE: They came together while volunteering to help others

Jordan and Cory Bates-Rogers were married on Sept. 18, 2018, by former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Annabelle Clinton Imber Tuck
Jordan and Cory Bates-Rogers were married on Sept. 18, 2018, by former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Annabelle Clinton Imber Tuck

Jordan Rogers and Cory Bates met while spending their Saturday morning helping others.

"It was an event that's called Wills for Heroes, and its when lawyers and law students do wills for free for firefighters, police and other first responders," Jordan says. "It was in Pine Bluff."

Cory, then a student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law, immediately noticed Jordan, who was in his first year of practice as a legal aid attorney.

"I remember thinking, 'Oh, he is handsome and he's really smart,' and he seemed really passionate about helping people, which is something that I tend to look for," Cory says. "I just remember that from the beginning he was just the kindest person and I was really drawn to that kindness."

Cory looked up Jordan's Facebook profile on the drive back to Little Rock.

"I sent him a message and I wasn't really sure what his status was," Cory says. "I was super professional. I just said something about how I appreciated him including law students in the event and I would love to learn more about how he got started in the legal community. I was really just trying to figure out if he was gay."

Jordan responded that he would love to get coffee and talk.

"Then it changed to dinner," Cory says. "I was meal prepping for the whole week and I was like, 'Do you just want to come over to my house for dinner?'"

They had several things in common, Jordan says.

"I was doing AmeriCorps service with the Arkansas Center for Legal Services and he had just started law school after having done Teach for America, so we were both sort of public-service-minded," he says. "That was one of the things that first attracted me to Cory, was his heart for service."

They learned to embrace their differences, as well.

"Jordan is a really active person. I was a law student and I spent most of my time in the law library," Cory says.

Jordan understood the demands of law school and made himself available to hang out as often as possible during Cory's down time. He even offered to walk Cory's dog.

Early on, Cory worried about whether it was wise to give someone he had not known for that long access to his home -- and to his dog.

"It was really nice to see someone who would put in that effort," he says. "It was really cool that he liked to take care of my dog while I was stuck in the library. He was helpful from the beginning, like he really tried to make my life better."

On the weekends they often went hiking.

"We probably went to Pinnacle Mountain several times but he also likes to go other places in the state. He loves to explore and do waterfalls and those kinds of things," Cory says. "He has done a lot of major hiking in Arkansas, so he kind of brought me into that."

Jordan expected nice weather for camping that March when he took Cory to the Buffalo National River.

"It was a little more rugged wilderness than I think he expected, and it turned out there were a few flurries," Jordan says. "I think that was one of the trips where we both decided that if we could survive that trip there would be a lot we could survive."

They had dated about a year and half when Jordan's birthday rolled around and Cory presented him a book, illustrated with stick figures and written by Cory himself.

"He put together the story of how we met," Jordan says. "I was like, geez, this is a lot for a birthday present. As I got closer to the end of the book it got more personal and heartfelt and I was like, 'Oh, I think this might be something different.'"

Cory waited patiently as Jordan read all 40-or-so pages.

"On the last page was a little stick figure that had a ring and was proposing and I turned around and he had a ring out," Jordan says.

Jordan later reciprocated by proposing to Cory, during a trip to Colorado, during a hike to Bear Lake, as big flakes of snow swirled around them.

"It was gorgeous. The lake was covered in snow and the mountains were huge in the background," Cory says. "I already knew we were getting married at that point but it was still a really nice gesture."

They were married on Sept. 13, 2018, on their lunch breaks, in the Pulaski County Courthouse.

"Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck, a former Supreme Court justice, married us," Jordan says "She was the person who wrote the opinion that legalized or decriminalized gay relationships in Arkansas, so that meant a lot to me personally, that she was the person to marry us."

For Cory, life sometimes feels surreal.

"I really never thought that I would be the person who would get married," he says. "He's just such a safe person. I feel kind of in awe of what it can mean to be in a healthy relationship like we have."

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The first time I saw my future spouse:

Cory says: "I knew I was about to break a promise I had made to myself to take a break from dating and just focus on school."

Jordan says: "I was enamored."

On our wedding day:

Cory says: "I was practicing law by then and I think I probably went straight to court afterward."

Jordan says: "I was incredibly grateful that we could get married because for most of my life it hadnt been legal for us to get married."

My advice on a long happy marriage:

Cory says: "I think both of us are very serious about making improvements in ourselves before criticizing the other person. We are both willing and eager to do the work to be better people."

Jordan says: "Learn about each others communication styles and communicate, more than you think you need to."

 Correction: Cory Bates-Rogers’ family name was incorrect in a previous verison of this story.

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