A Look Into The Most Important Gay Wedding Of The Year
Whether you care about gay marriage and gays in the military or not, take note. When 34-year-old Will Behrens (left) married 35-year-old Technical Sergeant Erwynn Umali (right) at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst chapel in Wrightstown, New Jersey earlier this summer, they became the first same-sex couple to have a civil union ceremony on a military base.
And that matters a lot, namely because it flies in the face of conservative arguments seeking to deny federal benefits to legally married gay couples.
You see, despite last year's repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"—the law banning gays in the military—married gay soldiers are still unequal to their heterosexual counterparts because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law denying the extension of any federal benefits to legally married same-sex spouses.
Ever since the U.S. Department of Defense granted military chaplains permission to marry gay couples on military bases last year, U.S. Republicans have fought ban such marriages, saying “The military is an entity of the federal government, and federal law states that marriage is between a man and a woman."
However, several federal courts around the country have found that DOMA furthers no legitimate government interest.
That is, they have found no good reason to deny federal benefits to legally-married, gay Americans like Umail, who has has been an active member of the U.S. Air Force for over 14 years and committed with his now husband since 2010.
Right now there's a bill in Congress to give benefits to gay military spouses. And with every same-sex marriage on Air Force, Army and Naval bases, the arguments to continue denying benefits to such couples gets weaker and weaker.
So let's toast to Mr. Umali and Behrens—may their marriage and many others like theirs challenge the anti-gay bias that keeps gay service members and civilians alike unequal.