The Defense Department issued a memo Friday morning allowing uniformed members of the military to march in San Diego's annual gay pride parade this weekend. The department said the one-time drop in its ban on uniformed servicepeople marching in parades was due to the national attention the event was receiving.
"Based on our current knowledge of the event and existing policies, we hereby are granting approval for servicemembers in uniform to participate in this year's parade, provided servicemembers participate in their personal capacity and ensure the adherence to military service standards of appearance and wear of the military uniform," the DOD memo stated.
Servicemembers are required to adhere to a restrict code of conduct while in uniform which includes not engaging in political activites or sponsoring commercial enterprises. Previously, servicemembers in uniform could only march in parades if given permission from a commanding officer.
San Diego LGBT Pride, the organization sponsoring the parade and surrounding events, hailed the announcement as another major success in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights.
"We look forward to a fun, fantastic celebration here in San Diego of the advances in LGBT equality from the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' We are excited about fusing the fundamental values of LGBT Pride with ideals of American Pride," San Diego LGBT Pride Executive Director David Crenshaw said.
Last year, over 200 openly gay soldiers marched in the parade wearing t-shirts naming their branch of service. This year, over 300 have already registered for the event, many of whom will come in uniform.
This year's parade theme, "America's Pride," highlights the steps forward made in both military rights for LGBT members as well as wider gay rights. In June, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for the first time publicly honored lesbian and gay servicemembers.
Panetta, a long-time proponent of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," added in his message he would continue to push for further implementation the repeal.
"Going forward, I remain committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make America's military a model of equal opportunity, to ensure all who are qualified can serve in America's military, and to give every man and woman in uniform the opportunity to rise to their highest potential."
Other notable strides this year in gay rights included President Barack Obama's public support for same-sex marriage, the Espiscopal Church allowing clergy to bless same-sex couples and extending more rights to LGBT clergymembers and wider public support for LGBT issues.
by RTT Staff Writer
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