Thursday, July 26, 2012

Service Members’ Uniformed March in Gay Pride Parade Sparks Controversy

Last week, the Defense Department made headlines when it issued a one-time exception to a longstanding policy that bars active duty troops from wearing military uniforms in public, non-partisan parades. The exception was created to allow service members to march in uniform in the San Diego Pride Parade this past weekend.

More than 350 service members traveled from all over the country to partake in the Pride festivities. About half of the military marchers wore their uniforms while most of the others sported t-shirts displaying their branch of service. Navy Senior Chief Dwayne Beebe drove all the way from Pensacola to attend. Clad in his bright white Navy uniform, Beebe even proposed to his boyfriend, Jonathan Franqui, during the parade.

“It was amazing, really,” Beebe told USA Today. “This is one time. This is history.”

But not everyone is happy about the Defense Department’s decision. On Tuesday, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, wrote a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta making anti-gay claims and demanding an explanation of the department’s decision. Despite such criticisms, however, the Pentagon has reiterated that the waiver it issued only applied to this year’s parade in San Diego. The Defense Department said it issued the waiver because organizers of the parade had encouraged military personnel to march in their uniforms, causing the event to garner national attention.

It is unclear whether the Pentagon will extend similar exceptions for other events. Although some members of Congress, such as Representative Susan Davis of California, support allowing troops to wear their uniforms at pride events to represent themselves individually, many others certainly do not.

Take Action: In the absence of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, claims like those made by Senator Inhofe cannot be taken lightly. They are clear attempts to uphold the stigma against and invisibility of gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members. Contact your elected officials today and tell them that you stand with the Defense Department in their decision to allow uniformed service members to march in the San Diego Pride Parade. Our service members deserve to be honored, not punished for their individuality. Take action now and show them how much you appreciate their dedication to the well-being of our nation.