President Obama announced in July 2011 that the outdated policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that had riddled the military for decades would finally be repealed. By September of last year, service members could openly serve in the military. Now the Pentagon has announced it will allow service members to march in a gay pride parade in San Diego this year.
This move is a first for the Department of Defense, which generally never allows military uniforms to be worn in parades, much less gay pride parades. Advocate.com reports that Rene Bardorf, deputy assistant secretary of Defense wrote, “We hereby are granting approval for service members in uniform to participate in this year’s parade.”
Service members are expected to deport themselves with the standards the military sets for those who serve. They are expected to maintain an appearance of professionalism when representing the military, the Pentagon stressed.
Saturday’s gay pride parade in San Diego is an exception to a wider rule that bars military uniforms from being worn in parades. Organizers of the parade estimate that about 400 active-duty service members will be marching in the parade. That’s double the number that marched in last year’s parade.
San Diego LGBT Pride Director, Dwayne Crenshaw, lauded Thursday’s announcement, stating, “Today is a great day of Pride! San Diego Pride is honored to have the privilege of celebrating our country and our servicemembers with dignity and respect… The fight for equality is not over and it is not easy, but this is a giant leap in the right direction.”
The decision is certainly one that follows in the wake of a long year of change in the military. One sailor, Sean Sala, who helped push for the exception in the parade, told the Associated Press:
I think many people thought after `Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was gone, discriminatory things would be eradicated… But now these parades have become a very sticky subject as far as commanders using their own discretion because they are showing either a bias toward a pride parade, or the right view, which this is about recognizing who people are.
It appears the Pentagon agreed to this current exception because parade organizers were garnering national attention when they asked for permission for military members to march.
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