First ever ‘gay wedding’ held on military base between an airman and his partner

This article was originally published on on July 18, 2012. 11,000 likes.

If you were to speculate 50 years ago that homosexual members of the military would not only be able to serve openly, but that they would be allowed to marry on a military base you’d likely would have been laughed out of the room. “Impossible!” they likely would have said.

Not anymore. Meet Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali, and his partner Will Behrens. They are now happily married, and it happened with the blessing of the U.S. military on the Joint Base of McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The event was attended by over 150 friends and family in June. The pictures are now being released for public viewing, rather than earlier to give the happy couple some time to get acclimated.

Navy chaplain Kay Reeb presided over the event and is quoted as saying she was “Delighted.” She also said, “I told them what I tell every couple. Love and cherish each other.”

The story of their meeting and relationship is almost as remarkable as the wedding itself. Both were raised in highly religious families, which severely condemned homosexuality. Both feared to expose their true feelings, lest they would be outcasts. Both were at one time married to women, and both have children.

In 2005 Erwynn divorced his wife and moved to New Jersey where he joined the Solid Rock Baptist Church. He did this in hopes of curbing his sexuality. His plans were quickly rerouted after he caught a glimpse of the choir director, now his husband, Will Behrens.

They became fast friends with a quick connection but both were still in denial about their sexuality. They stayed in contact until Umali was sent to Afghanistan in 2008.

By 2009 Umali re-married another woman only to divorce her after just a couple of months and he could no longer deny who he was, or his feelings. Soon after the divorce, their official relationship began.

It was not long before Will’s family took notice of his new male companion, and they confronted him. One day in February 2010 when Will was coming home from work, he saw the street where his home was lined with the vehicles of family members. He knew what they wanted.

When he opened the door they immediately began to bombard him with questions. He answered quickly that he was in love, and that he was indeed gay.

Fearing reprisal from his extremist family, he left amidst their outrage and fled.

They then kept their love a secret until Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was officially repealed on December 15th, 2010.

In the summer of 2011 Behrens proposed, and one year later they were married.

Umali was pleased to receive approval and encouragement by his fellow service members who all gave a rousing applause after the ceremony.

The happy couple now live close to the base, with joint custody of their children who visit often.

[Editor’s note: All pictures are the sole ownership of Jeff Sheng @ who graciously allowed me to publish them. You can find Jeff on Facebook here.]