FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The base chapel at the home of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and the Green Berets is opening to same-sex ceremonies.
Maj. Daniel Toven and Johnathan Taylor celebrated their marriage Saturday in the 1930s-era Main Post Chapel on Fort Bragg with more than 100 family members and friends. The pair married in Washington, D.C., in August. North Carolina law bars gay marriage.
The service is believed to be the first for a same-sex couple at Fort Bragg since the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2011.
“For me, it was my hope that someday before I retired that I might see the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ ” said Toven, who joined the Army in 2003. “This? I never imagined in a million years. It’s a dream come true.”
Toven, 44, is commander and conductor of the Army Ground Forces Band at Fort Bragg. Taylor, 24, is a registered nurse in a Fayetteville-area hospital and a pre-med student at Fayetteville Technical Community College and Methodist University.
Toven and Taylor have enjoyed the support of Toven’s military family, some of whom attended Saturday’s ceremony in uniform. Guests at the Episcopal service included a one-star general and a command sergeant major.
Also attending were Lt. Col. Heather Mack and her wife, who initially was barred from membership in the Fort Bragg Officers’ Spouses Club before the group relented earlier this year. The first same-sex war widow in the U.S. military also attended. Staff Sgt. Tracy Johnson’s wife, Staff Sgt. Donna Johnson, was killed in Afghanistan last year.
Toven and Taylor said they encountered no opposition to their ceremony from post officials and chaplains, a sign of the growing acceptance of same-sex military couples.
“We’ve been taken by surprise by the pace of change on Fort Bragg,” Toven told The Fayetteville Observer.
There have been same-sex ceremonies at other bases since th e repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” including at Fort Polk Army base in Louisiana and at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. This year, the military extended benefits to legally married same-sex spouses, regardless of whether the state where they are posted recognizes gay marriage.
Toven and Taylor’s life as a military couple “has been so normal it’s almost boring. It’s just life in the Army. It’s not the everyday gay Army. It’s just the everyday Army,” Taylor told The News & Observer of Raleigh.
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