Dec 1, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from USA Today: The first same-sex marriage at the U.S. Military Academy’s Cadet Chapel at West Point will be celebrated Saturday as Brenda Sue Fulton and Penelope Dara Gnesin exchange vows.
The ceremony comes a little more than a year after President Obama ended the military policy banning openly gay people from serving.
Fulton, a veteran and the communications director of an organization called Outserve — which represents actively serving gay, lesbian and bisexual military personnel — confirmed in an e-mail to USA TODAY Friday night: “We will be the first same sex couple to wed at the Cadet Chapel at West Point.”
The wedding will be the second gay marriage West Point has hosted. The first was a small, private ceremony last weekend between two of Fulton’s friends in a smaller venue on the campus.
In September 2011, the Pentagon issued guidance stating that “determinations regarding the use of DOD real property and facilities for private functions, including religious and other ceremonies, should be made on a sexual-orientation neutral basis, provided such use is not prohibited by applicable state and local laws.”
The policy change came with the caveat that the use of a military facility does not constitute an endorsement of gay marriage by the Defense Department.
In July 2011, President Obama named Fulton to the West Point Board of Visitors, making her the first openly gay member of the board that advises the Academy.
She graduated from West Point in 1980, part of the first class of cadets that included women, and later founded an organization called KnightsOut, which describes itself as “an organization of West Point Alumni, Staff and Faculty who are united in supporting the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender soldiers to openly serve their country.”
Fulton, 53, said she is getting married at the academy because “West Point has been an important part of my life,” but also because Gov. Chris Christie in her home state of New Jersey vetoed a gay marriage bill earlier this year.
“We had always said that we wanted to get married in New Jersey,” Fulton told USA Today, but “we didn’t want to wait any longer,” particularly because Gnesim, 52, is a breast cancer survivor and suffers from multiple sclerosis.