As the Supreme Court takes on DOMA and Proposition 8 and more states legalize gay marriage, the slow but inexorable shift of public opinion toward tolerance and marriage equality seems to be taking hold. Despite religious fundamentalists with their antiquated bigotry and one of those Supreme Court justices equating homosexuality with murder, we inarguably have a country headed in the right direction, with a President and commander in chief on the side of civil rights.
Which made it all the sweeter for U.S. Marine Corp Captain Matthew Phelps to propose to his boyfriend, Ben Schock, in the Grand Foyer of the White House where that commander in chief currently resides. In a moment of historical note, the active duty Marine’s proposal became the first at the White House between a gay couple. From Yahoo News:
“Our first date was to the White House, so I wanted to propose to him there,” Phelps told ABC News. “When I got invited to the holiday tour – six months to the day that we had been there on our first date – it was way too much of a coincidence to pass up.”
The moment, which Phelps described as a complete surprise to Schock, was captured on camera by fellow tour-goers. Some of the images have since gone viral online:
Captain Phelps emphasized that the proposal was only possible because of the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” making clear the very real and human impact of evolving “legal tolerance.” For supporters of marriage equality, the symbolism of the first gay proposal at the White House was significant. Though it is not known whether the Obamas were aware of the happy event occurring in their quarters, the fact that Phelps and Schock were welcome there to make history was the salient point.
The only looming concern for the two happy men is the continuing existence of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, with its limiting effect on their freedom to live and interact as a married couple. From Captain Phelps:
“The one thing that is overshadowing things,” he said, “is the fact that the Defense of Marriage Act is still in effect and the DOD [Defense Department] isn’t going to recognize our marriage.
“I’m expecting to get orders to Japan next summer, but as of right now, because they’re not going to recognize Ben as my spouse, they’re not going to pay for him to accompany me; he’s not going to have any health care coverage; and, he’s not going to have access to the base while I’m gone,” he said.
“I’d have to get permission to live out in town as a ‘single officer,’ so we’ll have to figure that out,” he said.
Hopefully the Supreme Court will also “figure out” the unconstitutionality of this oppressive law and the accompanying anti-equality message of California’s Prop. 8. The sense of being on the “right side of history” compels many states forward in granting marriage rights to all men and women regardless of sexual orientation and hope is high that SCOTUS will join the movement toward removing restrictions to true equality.
Until then, two loving, committed men will revel in the novelty of their proposal circumstances and celebrate their upcoming nuptials. And as Capt. Phelps executes his duty as a Marine, we hope the Supreme Court does its duty, as well, in granting this soldier his deserved and equal rights.