A gay service member in the Air Force
and his partner entered a civil union on Saturday at Joint Base
McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Wrightstown, New Jersey.
The civil union of Tech. Sgt. Erwynn
Umali and Will Behrens is considered the first same-sex ceremony held
on a military base since repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
According to the AP, dozens of friends
and family members attended the ceremony.
“We are so honored to be a part of
this historic moment to be one of the first gay couples allowed to
unite in a civil union on a military base,” the couple said in a
“We hope to be an inspiration to
others in the LGBT community that struggle with the challenge of
marriage equality. And that this issue is not just about the
military, but the equal sacrifice and shared burdens of our loved
ones who are civilians.”
Kay Reeb, a Navy chaplain with the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who also serves at Joint Base
McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, presided over the ceremony. She said she was
delighted to participate in her first civil union.
“I told them the same thing I tell
every couple – love each other and trust in each other and in God,
that's what keeps us together,” Reeb is quoted by the AP as saying.
Former Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva was
among those attending the event. Alva lobbied Congress to repeal
“Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the law which for 18 years banned gay
and bisexual troops from serving openly.
“It's a blessing for me to be here
today,” Alva said. “A historic event like this shows that
progress is being made.”