Cadets at the United States Military Academy (commonly known as West Point) attend a religious service in the school's chapel, West Point, New York, 1941. (Photo by Dmitri Kessel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
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."
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.
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."
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.