WWII Soldier Marries in First Same-Sex Wedding at Veterans’ Home
A 95-year-old member of the Greatest Generation has tied the knot with his boyfriend, a Vietnam vet, at a California veterans home in what was hailed by some (and excoriated by others) as the facilty’s first same-sex wedding.
Proving that one is never to old for love, 95-year-old John Banvard wed Gerard Nadeau, 67, in a ceremony that caused some tension at the home and led disapproving residents to contact the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. But the ceremony itself was unmarred, with supporters of the two men in attendance.
The men are a longtime couple who have been together for two decades.
News station Fox 5 San Diego reported on the men’s’ nuptials.
The Sept. 12 wedding was a direct result of the Supreme Court’s rulings earlier in the summer, Banvard told the press. In one historic verdict, the Court found key portions of the anti-gay 1996 Defense of Marriage Act to be in violation of the United States Constitution. In another ruling, the Court allowed the verdict of a lower court overturning California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved ballot initiative that snatched marriage rights from same-sex couples, to stand.
"After 20 years, we decided we wanted to get married but we had to wait until the Supreme Court said it was OK," San Diego news channel ABC 10 quoted Banvard as saying in a Sept. 13 story.
The couple have resided at the Veterans Home of Chula Vista for the past three years, news reports said. Not all of their co-residents greeted their wedding in a festive manner, though a number of the home’s other residents showed support by attending the blessed event.
The home’s director, Neil Asper, oversaw a meeting prior to the ceremony, at which some residents expressed their disapproval.
"It’s been somewhat controversial," the Fox 5 news report quoted Asper. "I told them, they have the right to get married here just like everybody else."
One resident expressed grudging support for the couple, telling Fox 5, "I just know that it’s against my faith and my religion, but as Americans they have a right to do what they want to do."
Others, however, were far less accepting. A few of the home’s other residents alerted the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, a small congregation consisting mostly of a single family. The church is known nationally for its tactics of picketing military funerals and carrying signs in which they express their belief that God has punished the United States for failing to persecute gays sufficiently. The church suggests that military casualties and natural disasters are God’s response to the gains that GLBT individuals and their families have made in recent years.
"I think some of the residents here called them in the hope that the ceremony would be moved off property," a staff member of the home, Jim Karellas, told the media.
Westboro’s faith-based anti-gay activism was limited to a phone call to the facility, however, according to a report posted Sept. 14 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Commenting on those who were not supportive, Nadeau took the long view.
"Oh, that’s their problem not mine," he said, going on to add, "but you know what this will do, open the door for other people."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.