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OutServe Magazine | April 4, 2015

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A Straight Ally on Gay Weddings

A Straight Ally on Gay Weddings

by Mikey Piro

I have had the great fortune to attend two “gay” weddings in the past year. I am only putting “gay” in quotes because to the reader, without them experiencing the love and celebration first had, you would have never known that two devoted women were tying the knot. As a straight attendee of weddings in the past, and because wedding celebrations are so normalized into straight culture, the net result of each wedding I attended was usually an opinion on food, drink, music and company. If necessary, a raised eyebrow was cast on whether or not the marriage would survive, and those weddings usually had a cloud over them that no amount of cocktail hours could overcome. Sadly a number of weddings have been laborious because the celebration can seem manufactured and the message of love and devotion gets lost amongst themes, photo booths, and Cha Cha slides.

Sue and Penny 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.

Sue Fulton and Penny Gneslin are both vocal advocates for LGBT military members and their spouses and partners.

Sue and Penny’s wedding at the Cadet chapel this past weekend was nothing short of spectacular. Love and happiness emanated from every pew in a packed house. As weddings go, this one was a layup. Nobody doubted these two ladies are in it for the long haul. But, the most special part of the celebration was the beaming smiles emanating from Sue and Penny. Their love for each other was forged long ago. Their re-affirmation, which they had subsequently done three times as laws evolved, was never in jeopardy. Still, the smiles were just a little wider because of the ground they stood on. There on the granite floors of the chapel nestled into the hills of West Point, Sue and Penny, after years of waiting, could finally feel like equal citizens.

The fact that I have been married for eight years and Sue and Penny, devoted for 17 years, have been married for one whole day because of a law is absurd. And despite the passing of numerous Gay Marriage laws, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) stills stands in the way of true equality and security.

For many, the argument is, why not just call it something else, why does it have to be marriage? To them I say, because I can do it, so can they. It is unjust, unfair, and unequal.
Why do I get in such a huff about equality? The answer usually lies on the bleeding edge. It is only when we explore the implications and ordered effects of these laws that the full weight of absurdity is felt.

Here is an example: When I served my second tour in Iraq with my wife, we shared the battlefield in some firefights. She was a scout helicopter pilot; I was a Cavalryman. If one of us had died in combat, the other, once the fighting was over, would travel home with the body. We were forced to talk about it. It was a very real, and a surreal conversation to have with your spouse. As a casket traveled home, the system would work to ensure the respect and honor afforded all service men and women. However, the privileges we have are not the same for a gay service member under the same circumstances.

Currently because of DOMA, if a gay soldier were to die, the rights afforded the spouse, to travel to see the flag draped service member return home to Dover Air Force Base are not sanctioned. The spouse would not be cared for by our military as the long and hard preparations unfolded. By law, a spouse would not be recognized to receive the benefits. I shudder when I think of more heartbreak added to an already dismal situation.

We took a great step towards seeing true equality this weekend, but there is still much work to be done.

And for the record, we did the Cha Cha Slide, and I doubt it has ever looked better on a dance floor.

Guest blogger Michael “Mikey” Piro is a 2001 graduate of West Point. He served in OIF I and III as an Infantry Officer. His wife Sarah is also West Point class of 2001. She served as an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior Scout Pilot. They served in the same battle space during OIF III.