For the first time in U.S. history, the Defense Department has announced that it will, for one day only, allow service members to march in uniform in San Diego's Gay Pride Parade on Saturday. "The Defense Department said it was making the exception for San Diego’s Gay Pride Parade that will take place Saturday because organizers had encouraged military personnel to march in their uniform and the event was getting national attention," reports the AP's Julie Watson. It's the first time in U.S. history and first time since the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell that troops will be allowed to march in uniform at a Gay Pride event, but it's also notable in that the Pentagon is, as Watson notes, "making an exception to its policy that generally bars troops from marching in uniform in parades unless individuals get approval from their commanders." As organizer Sean Sala told Watson, commanders and their personal decisions were a hurdle in getting approval. He says that "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."
Last year, the service members wore T-shirts which bore the branch they served in (photo above). If you recall, DADT was fully repealed on September 20 2011, which meant that during San Diego's last Gay Pride celebration DADT was still on the books and even though Congress had voted to repeal the measure, troops at this same Pride celebration were still warned about marching and the risk of marching in a gay pride parade, according to an AP report at the time. According to organizer Sean Sala, over 300 members have signed up to participate, though Watson reports that it is unclear how many will show up in uniform. What is clear is that those in uniform will have to respect the military's rules of behavior and the responsibility that comes with donning the uniform. Watson writes:
The Defense Department said in its message to the service members that they should adhere to policy regarding behavior while wearing their uniforms.
Service members in uniform cannot appear to endorse or selectively benefit groups or individuals, provide a platform for a political message, or appear to be commercially sponsored. They also must ensure their presence in uniform is not intended to increase sales and business traffic.