(Editor's note: Fred Sainz, a former press secretary to San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, is vice president of communications and marketing at the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C.)
I had the privilege of watching history unfold before my eyes on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey this weekend. Technical Sergeant Erwynn Umali – an active duty member of the Air Force -wed his partner, Will Behrens, on base in a ceremony presided over by a military chaplain from the Navy. This ceremony was one of the first of its kind since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was implemented 9 months ago.
Since the ceremony took place in New Jersey, Erwynn and Will are joined together via civil union instead of marriage. But the couple reportedly plans to get a marriage license in New York, which passed marriage equality last year. And there’s no diluting the historic significance of a same-sex military family standing before their loved ones and making a life-long commitment on a military base with the blessings of a military chaplain.
Air Force Captain Ryan Quinn attended as well. In remarks to the Army Times, Captain Quinn said he was “amazed by the beauty” of the ceremony, and went on to remark that: “I really do think this is an important event. And I was happy to be here with them and their families. The amount of support I’ve seen for them from the people (at the base) and the military community makes me proud to serve in the Air Force.”
This touching ceremony is just the latest in a string of historic milestones we’ve seen in the military since the implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal last fall. This month is the first time openly lesbian, gay and bisexual service members can participate openly in Pride celebrations; Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta even released a Pride video two weeks ago.
To read the HRC blog, click HERE.