The Cadet Chapel, the landmark Gothic church on the esteemed West Point campus, hosted its first-ever same-sex wedding this weekend.

Penelope Gnesin, 52, and Brenda Sue Fulton, 53, a West Point graduate, exchanged vows in the historical church. “It has a tremendous history, and it is beautiful. That’s where I first heard and said the cadet prayer,” Fulton told USA Today.


The chaplains who presided at the chapel all came from denominations that did not allow them to celebrate gay marriage, but that didn’t deter the happy couple. They turned to their friend, Army Chaplain Col. J. Wesley Smith, to officiate.

Fulton is a 1980 graduate of West Point, part of the first class of cadets that included women, and later founded an organization called KnightsOut, which describes itself as “an organization of West Point Alumni, Staff and Faculty who are united in supporting the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender soldiers to openly serve their country.” In July 2011, President Obama named Fulton to the West Point Board of Visitors, making her the first openly gay member of the board that advises the Academy.

The couple, who have been together for 17 years, opted to wed in West Point not only because of its integral role that it played in Fulton’s life but because their home state of New Jersey does not currently recognize same-sex marriage.

“We had always said that we wanted to get married in New Jersey,” Fulton told USA Today, but “we didn’t want to wait any longer,” particularly because Gnesim, 52, is a breast cancer survivor and suffers from multiple sclerosis.

Though Fulton and Gnesim’s wedding is a first for the majestic chapel, it’s the second same-sex wedding held on West Point’s campus, the first being last week in a smaller, private ceremony between two of Fulton’s friends.


Brittny Drye is the senior editor at Equally Wed, the nation’s premier online magazine for gay and lesbian weddings and honeymoons. Follow her on Twitter @BrittnyDrye.