US: West Point Military Chapel hosts first same-sex wedding ceremony

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A prestigious New York Military Chapel hosted its first same-sex wedding ceremony on Saturday, which was that of an academy graduate, and her partner of seventeen years.

West Point Military Academy’s Cadet Chapel hosted the wedding of Brenda “Sue” Fulton and Penelope Gnesin, reported ABC News.

The wedding was particularly significant for Ms Fulton, as she had worked on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which took place just over a year ago.

After Ms Fulton requested the chapel, she was told that there was not a serving chaplain from a denomination which allows equal marriage, their marriage was officiated by a friend of the couple, Army Chaplain Colonel J Wesley Smith of Dover Air Force Base.

Family and friends, some of whom had worked with Ms Fulton on the repeal, attended the ceremony. Amanda Fulton, the niece of Brenda, expressed her joy at her aunt being able to marry the woman she loves, and that she had struggled to understand why the issue was so big, when she was younger. She said:

“I didn’t understand the marriage issue until I was much older. … Knowing that they couldn’t get married, that was awful. It was heart-wrenching.”

Brenda was appointed by President Barack Obama to the West Point’s Board of Visitors around the same time that Don’t ask Don’t Tell was repealed.

The board’s first lesbian or gay member, Ms Fulton was one of the first women to attend West Point, around thirty years ago.

The couple had wanted to marry in New Jersey, where they had both lived for decades, however the same-sex marriage bill which was passed in Febuary, was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie, who said he would only allow civil unions.

When asked about getting engaged to Ms Gnesin, and why the couple didn’t choose to marry in New York, which legalised same-sex marriage in 2011, Ms Fulton said:

“I looked at Penny, and we had a quick conversation, and I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me at West Point,” Fulton said.

Reading her vows, Ms Gnesin said to Fulton: “I promise to be true to you, and to my own path… Now, we stand together; may it always be so. Blessed be.”

The couple were the first same-sex couple to marry in the chapel, however other same-sex wedding ceremonies have taken place at the academy.

Back in March, at the prestigious military academy, a group of alumni known as Knights Out held a pride event in the form of a campus dinner, six months after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.