U.S. allows uniformed active duty military to march in gay pride parade

Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:28am EDT

Thousands of people attend San Diego's Gay Pride Parade in San Diego, July 16, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Thousands of people attend San Diego's Gay Pride Parade in San Diego, July 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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(Reuters) - The Department of Defense, in a first-of-its-kind move, will allow active duty members of all branches of the U.S. military to don their service uniforms while marching in an upcoming San Diego gay pride parade, event organizers said on Thursday.

The move, confirmed in an internal defense memo, marks the first time the military has granted such blanket permission since the September repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, under which gay individuals were allowed to serve in the military only if they did not divulge their sexual orientation.

"It is our understanding that event organizers plan to have a portion of the parade dedicated to military members," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community and Public Outreach Rene Bardorf wrote in an internal memo.

"We further understand organizers are encouraging service members to seek their commander's approval to march in uniform and to display their pride," Bardorf wrote.

Citing national media attention to the issue, Bardorf granted approval for service members to participate, but limited that approval in scope to the 2012 San Diego Pride Parade.

San Diego has a large military presence due to its naval base and the nearby Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Nearly 400 military members have already signed up to march in the parade, according to organizer San Diego LGBT Pride.

Many more are expected to participate in the military parade after the announcement went public, Fernando Lopez, the director of public affairs for San Diego LGBT Pride, told Reuters. More than 50,000 people are expected to attend the weekend festivities overall, organizers said.

"We are hopeful that those who have feared coming to share in the joy of Pride out of concern for losing their military careers will be able to finally celebrate their full and complete selves," San Diego LGBT Pride said in a statement.

In the past, only armed services veterans, not those on active duty, were allowed to wear their uniforms at gay pride parades. Commanders could give permission to individuals to take part in such events in uniform but no blanket permission had previously been issued, Lopez said.

In a second internal memo published on Thursday, Bardorf said that for parades other than the San Diego event for which he issued a specific memo, local commanders are given discretion in allowing service members to participate unless it is "likely to garner national or international interest or news coverage."


The approval for active service members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force to participate in the gay pride parade in uniform is the latest of a string of milestones following the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The U.S. military celebrated gay pride month at the Pentagon for the first time last month, an event that other federal agencies like the CIA had been celebrating for years.

Also in June, active-duty Air Force Technical Sergeant Erwynn Umali married his civilian partner Will Behrens on the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst joint military base in New Jersey. The wedding, first reported by Slate magazine this week, was the first same sex marriage on an American military base.

Under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, more than 14,500 U.S. service members were thrown out of the military since the rule went into effect in 1993, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Many senior members of the military had publicly warned against repealing the ban in wartime, saying it could hurt cohesion of troops or undermine morale. The Pentagon said in May that there had been no such impact.

The end of the policy has come at a time of steadily increasing public support for same-sex marriage. The Gallup polling organization said in a recent survey that half of American adults are now in favor of gay marriage.

Also in May, President Barack Obama said he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, and the nation's largest civil rights group, the NAACP, later endorsed gay marriage, saying the fight for gay rights was a civil rights issue.

(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Cynthia Johnston and Stacey Joyce)

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Comments (5)
nikacat wrote:
And so the Obama rot creeps ever more deeply into our nation’s armed forces. How fitting this display should take place in California, where the rot pervades every facet of life.

Jul 20, 2012 1:21am EDT  --  Report as abuse
SteveMD2 wrote:
the rot is people who always need someone to demonize. It generally comes from their not being confident of themselves , or worse.

BTW in the following link , all most all of the people in it are repubs. Secretly gay, got outed.


Some of the bad bad people in America may not be gay. Usually they are also racists

Here’s Tony Perkinds, head of the hate group FRC. An apparition from the time berfore we abolished slavery.


Jul 20, 2012 2:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
HAL.9000 wrote:
It’s a violation of regulations to use the uniform to promote a
cause. This was last tested with the breast-feeding moms in uniform debacle this past June.

According to the military, public displays of affection — even something as innocuous as holding hands — are not allowed while wearing a military uniform. Also forbidden while in uniform: eating, drinking, or talking on a cell phone while walking, carrying an umbrella that’s not black, and (in some cases) smoking or even chewing gum.

I’m sure once photos of military members in uniform “carrying-on” at this parade, the DOD will do a double take. After all, do you not expect to see homosexual activity at a gay pride parade?

BTW, when was the last time a heterosexual pride parade took place?
I’m sure if there is one it will bring a firestorm of controversy.
Yet gay pride parades are OK?

Jul 20, 2012 3:13am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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