The Pentagon this week has permitted its soldiers to wear their official uniforms while participating in one of the nation’s largest gay pride parades, in San Diego, California. The move follows President Barack Obama’s successful 2010 bid to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” stricture against gay and lesbian military personnel.
In a memorandum sent to all branches of the military, the Pentagon said it would make an exception for San Diego’s parade on Saturday though the policy on uniform regulations, which forbids service men and women from participating in parades while in uniform, would still stand.
Military staff would thus continue to be governed by a directive clarified last September, according to which “Members on active duty are permitted to engage in partisan and nonpartisan political fundraising activities, meetings, rallies, debates, conventions, or activities as a spectator when not in uniform and when no inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement can reasonably be drawn.”
According to reports the exception was made on the occasion of the gay pride parade because its organisers “had encouraged military personnel to march in their uniform and the event was getting national attention”.
Welcoming the Pentagon’s announcement Dwayne Crenshaw, Executive Director of San Diego LGBT Pride, 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 at America’s Pride in San Diego.” He added that thus far over 300 individuals had signed up for this one contingent.
The relaxation of official uniform policy in the military’s branches comes in the wake of the Pentagon’s unprecedented move to join ranks with rest of the federal government in celebrating June as Gay Pride Month. At the time, Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said in a video message he would seek to “remove as many barriers as possible to making the military a model of equal opportunity”.
Early on in his presidency Mr. Obama made it a top policy priority to expand the rights and privileges of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) communities.
The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in December 2010 was followed by the President coming out of the closet with his view on same-sex marriage.
He surprised the nation in May when, during comments to a media channel, he said, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”