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Army veteran weds in first same-sex ceremony at West Point Cadet Chapel

Sunday, December 2, 2012
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WEST POINT, N.Y. — In a historic first for the venerable chapel at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Army veteran Brenda “Sue” Fulton married her longtime partner, Penelope Gnesin, in front of family and friends in a ceremony officiated by Army Chaplain, Colonel J. Wesley Smith of Dover Air Force Base.

Fulton, 53, a West Point graduate and the Communications Director for the LGBT advocacy group OutServe-SLDN — which represents actively serving gay, lesbian and bisexual military personnel — said she was thrilled to be able to be married in the chapel on the Academy’s grounds.

Sue Fulton and Penny Gneslin, the first LGBT couple to marry in the U.S. Military Academy Cadet Chapel go through the saber arch provided by members of OutServe, Knights Out, USMA’s Spectrum, and one straight ally. Four Army lieutenants and four West Point Cadets formed the arch.
Photo: Jeff Sheng, via Outserve.

“West Point holds special significance to both me and Penny,” said Fulton. “It has a tremendous history, and it is beautiful. That’s where I first heard and said the cadet prayer.”

“From the time I was a cadet, what West Point stands for – integrity, leadership, selfless service – have been my touchstones. When Penny and I worked on ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ we kept coming back to the core value of integrity, and that’s what made a difference. To be able to legalize our union here, especially at the Cadet Chapel, is really important to us.”

Fulton and Gnesin are the first same sex couple to wed at the Cadet Chapel at West Point.

“We are thrilled for Sue and Penny, and along with them, look forward to a day when this kind of event no longer makes headlines and all Americans enjoy the freedom to marry and the justice of those marriages being recognized,” said Zeke Stokes, spokesman for OutServe.

The couple met in 1995.

In July 2011, Fulton was appointed by President Barack Obama to be the first openly gay person on the U.S. Military Academy’s Board of Visitors, the the board that advises the President on matters relating to West Point.

Fulton is also the Executive Director of Knights Out, an organization of LGBT West Point graduates and allies. She joined OutServe-SLDN’s newly combined Board in October 2012.

The wedding was the second gay marriage West Point has hosted. The first was a small, private ceremony last weekend between two of Fulton’s friends — Army 1st Lt Ellen Schick married Shannon Simpson in an intimate ceremony at West Point’s older, original cadet chapel, built in 1836.

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