Couple exchange vows in same-sex ceremony at Fort Bragg

mquillin@newsobserver.comDecember 21, 2013 

— Maj. Daniel Toven and Johnathan Taylor celebrated their marriage Saturday in the historic Main Post Chapel on Fort Bragg with more than 100 family members and friends.

Toven, 44, is commander and conductor of the Army Ground Forces Band at Fort Bragg. Taylor, 24, is a registered nurse in a Fayetteville-area hospital and a pre-med student at Fayetteville Technical Community College and Methodist University.

The couple will continue to live in Fayetteville. Toven is the son of Gordon and Mona Lou Toven of Reynoldsville, Pa. Taylor’s parents are Michelle and Ben Miles of Rockingham.

Toven wore his Army service uniform, with a dark blue coat and royal blue pants, and carried his ceremonial saber. Taylor wore a morning suit: a black cutaway jacket over dark gray pants.

They are the first same-sex couple to hold a celebration ceremony in a chapel on Fort Bragg, an event that may have been most notable for its similarity to uncounted thousands of others that have taken place at the chapel since it was built in 1932.

The service was officiated by the Rev. Harry Abernathy, a missioner of the Sandhills Episcopal Cluster of Churches, based in Hamlet. The couple was sponsored by Army Chaplain Capt. George Tyger.

The pair attend St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville.

Toven and Taylor were legally married in a private ceremony in Washington on Aug. 6. Saturday’s event was a blessing ceremony that gave the couple the opportunity to exchange their vows in a church, before a minister and with the support of their colleagues, friends and loved ones.

Especially since the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011, Toven and Taylor have enjoyed the support of Toven’s military family, some of whom attended Saturday’s ceremony in uniform.

Recently, Toven’s commander took Taylor aside to help plan a surprise: Toven would be promoted from captain to major during a holiday concert last Wednesday night by the Armed Forces Band at Meymandi Hall in Raleigh. The promotion ceremony, normally witnessed only by military personnel and close family, took place onstage before a packed, cheering crowd.

That a two-star general would conspire with Toven’s spouse in such a way, he said, was just one more indication of how welcome the Army has made the couple feel.

There have been same-sex ceremonies at other bases since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” including at Fort Polk Army base in Louisiana and at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. This year, the military extended benefits to legally married same-sex spouses, regardless of whether the state where they are posted recognizes gay marriage.

Toven’s and Taylor’s shared life as a military couple, Taylor said, “has been so normal it’s almost boring. It’s just life in the Army. It’s not the everyday gay Army. It’s just the everyday Army.”

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service