West Point’s First Same Gender Religious Marriage

Penelope Gnesin and Brenda Sue Fulton became the first same gender couple to get married by a military chaplain in Cadet Chapel, the regal church at the center of spiritual life at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Sue Fulton, a West Point graduate, campaigned against the ban against gays in the military.

A congressional bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was enacted in December 2010, about five months before the ratification of Amendment 10-A removing the barrier to the ordination of openly lesbian and gay candidates in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

According to Fulton, the biggest struggle in arranging the ceremony was finding a chaplain authorized by their denomination to perform same gender marriages.

From the Washington Post:

The two have been together for 17 years. They had a civil commitment ceremony that didn’t carry any legal force in 1999 and had long hoped to formally tie the knot. The way was cleared last year, when New York legalized same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama lifted the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting openly gay people from serving in the military.

The brides both live in New Jersey and would have preferred to have the wedding there, but the state doesn’t allow gay marriage.

“We just couldn’t wait any longer,” Fulton told The Associated Press in a phone interview Saturday.

Cadet Chapel was a more-than-adequate second choice, she said.

“It has a tremendous history, and it is beautiful. That’s where I first heard and said the cadet prayer,” Fulton said, referring to the invocation that says, “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.”

The ceremony was the second same-sex wedding at West Point. Last weekend, two of Fulton’s friends, a young lieutenant and her partner, were married in another campus landmark, the small Old Cadet Chapel in West Point’s cemetery…

Fulton said the only hassle involved in arranging her ceremony came when she was initially told that none of West Point’s chaplains was authorized by his or her denomination to perform same-sex weddings.

Luckily, Fulton said, they were able to call on a friend, Army Chaplain Col. J. Wesley Smith. He is the senior Army chaplain at Dover Air Force Base, where he presides over the solemn ceremonies held when the bodies of soldiers killed in action overseas return to U.S. soil.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.