Servicemembers can march in their uniforms in San Diego’s LGBT Pride parade on July 21, another first that followed the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
San Diego Pride executive director Dwayne Crenshaw called it an historic announcement. "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," Crenshaw said. "The fight for equality is not over and it is not easy, but this is a giant leap in the right direction."
The Defense Department announced the authorization on July 19 in a memo to the service branches that noted that San Diego's Pride theme is "America's Pride" and that a portion of the parade is dedicated to celebrating military service.
Active-duty servicemembers have previously participated in Pride events, first in San Diego parade but also in others. Until now, they had been barred from marching in uniforms in the parades and wore civilian clothes. More than 200 active-duty servicemembers marched in San Diego’s parade last year, many wearing T-shirts for their service branch.
Former sailor Sean Sala, who organized the military’s participation in the parade, said with the ban on open service lifted, there’s no reason to hide.
“My soul is on fire,” he said after hearing about the Pentagon memo. “They don’t fight in T-shirts. They fight in uniforms. This is about showing who they are.”
Earlier this summer, the Pentagon celebrated Pride Month with a salute to LGBT servicemembers. The tribute included a video message from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said the military should be a model for equality.
The uniform authorization only applies to the San Diego parade on July 21, but Sala believes there will be no going back.
“I think across the country we will start seeing active-duty members in uniform march in Pride parades,” Sala said.
More than 300 servicemembers have signed up to participate in the San Diego parade.