First Gay US Military Wedding Is Unbelievable Story
On June 23, 2012, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali and Will Behrens were married in a civil union ceremony at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a military base in southern New Jersey. It was the first publicly announced gay union ceremony held at an American military base. For some, it might be hard to believe that such a day has actually arrived. But the story of how Umali and Behrens got there, as reported by Slate, is even more incredible: they were brought together by their evangelical (and often anti-gay) Christian faith.
Both Umali and Behrens were raised in strict Christian homes. Behrens father was a youth pastor who worked for a minister known for preaching corporeal punishment of children. Will ran away from home several times to avoid such beatings. Umali was born in the Philippines, and came to the US as a child. His household was hardline Catholic.
Both boys knew that homosexuality was out of the question, and didn’t even let themselves consider it. Both tried to cover their tendencies with sports like wrestling at school; the article notes that Umali took to mocking and bullying boys with effeminate behavior.
Both married women and had families; but their marriages ultimately fell apart. When they met in the Solid Rock Baptist Church in New Jersey, perhaps each man immediately knew that they had found a kindred spirit. Even amidst the anti-gay sermons that were common at the church, they became close friends.
Of course, that realization must have been terrifying, and they tried to fight it. Umali married again, a woman from Solid Rock, but it lasted only a few months. Will and Erwynn drifted away from each other as friends.
They were brought back together by an all-male church retreat which cemented their relationship.
Both men had to cut ties to their families to be together, and risked losing custody of their children. What’s more, the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy kept them on edge for months before its repeal meant Umali’s job was safe.
Boy, who has the film rights to this one? What do you think of Umali and Behren’s story?
[via Slate; photo via Jeff Sheng/Slate]