From Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to big fat gay weddings at West Point.
Many West Point graduates dream of marrying in one of the famous military academy’s chapels, especially when they’re marrying fellow graduates. West Point can represent an important and formative era in someone’s life, and thus marriage on campus has an important symbolic value. For gay and lesbian graduates of West Point, that value is even more important, because until very recently, they weren’t allowed to be openly gay while in military service, and were forced to love in secret. Marrying at the military academy would have been unthinkable.
Two lesbian couples have already tied the knot at West Point, but last weekend, a gay couple made history by becoming the first male couple married there, holding services in the Cadet Chapel. The almost 100-year-old building is famous for its stunning gothic architecture, amazing organ and beautiful services, but this week, it became famous for other reasons, as the host of what will hopefully be the first of many gay weddings on the grounds of West Point.
The two men, Larry Choate III (2009) and Daniel Lennox (2007) took advantage of the fact that gay marriage is legal in New York state to celebrate their wedding in the place where both of them had so many important experiences. While they’re finished with their terms of military service, they still have strong ties to West Point — in fact, it is their West Point connections that brought them together, as they didn’t meet on the campus but after their graduations. This is a tight second family that many West Point graduates form as they move out into the world, creating a close network of connections brought together by their shared experiences at the academy.
Choate has particularly fond memories of the chapel, as he taught Sunday School there during his years as a cadet at West Point. During his time in the chapel, he always imagined himself getting married there — something that would have been inconceivable for a gay cadet serving in the military when he was.
Thus, their wedding is both a celebration of their love for each other and of the tremendous strides that have been made for gay and lesbian rights in the military. The men kept the service relatively small, focusing on family and close friends for the event rather than a big crowd.
Ultimately, he was eager to stress that his wedding was just like any other: two people who love each other, getting together to say wedding vows and commit to each other for life. There might not have been a bride present, but just like any other marriage ceremony, his featured witnesses, friends and loved ones who came together to watch two families join together in a place where the betrothed had strong ties. While their marriage is newsworthy and boundary-breaking today, and Choate hopes it helps pave the way for others, ultimately it will hopefully be a footnote in history: “Remember when gay marriages at West Point were news?”
Photo credit: West Point.