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West Point chapel to host first same-sex marriage

10:02 PM, Nov 30, 2012   |    comments
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By Paul Singer, 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."

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 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."

In September, Obama issued a statement commemorating the one-year anniversary of the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell," the military policy that banned openly gay soldiers from serving. He said, "Gay and lesbian Americans now no longer need to hide who they love in order to serve the country they love."

But the 1996 Defense Of Marriage Act still prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and says that states cannot be forced to recognize them.

New York's legislature approved gay marriage in June 2011, and in October, a federal appeals court in the state ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.


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