(Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)
The U.S. Department of Defense gave permission Thursday for all service members participating in San Diego's Gay Pride Parade this Saturday to march in uniform for the first time in history. Christian chaplains in the military previously said that the DoD's recent recognition of Gay Pride Month less than a year after the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) is the new "stark reality" that behavior once considered by the military as grounds for court martial is now celebrated.
The announcement via a military-wide directive came just one day before this year's San Diego LGBT Pride Festival that begins on Friday.
"Based on our current knowledge of the event and existing policies, we hereby are granting approval for service members in uniform to participate in this year's parade, provided service members participate in their personal capacity and ensure the adherence to Military Service standards of appearance and wear of the military uniform," the memo stated, according to NBC7 San Diego.
Military personnel could previously receive permission to wear uniforms by their local commanders. However, the department stated in its memo that approval at a higher level was granted "now since the event has garnered national media attention."
Chaplain (Col.) Ron Crews, USAR retired, executive director for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, has said the repeal of DADT has created an uncertain "new environment" for not only chaplains who believe in biblical marriage, but for service members as a whole.
"For the first time ever, the Department of Defense is making a positive event over behavior (sodomy) that had been a court martial offense a year ago," Crews recently told The Christian Post. "Now the DoD is wanting to honor that behavior. That's the stark reality that we're living in now."
Last year's San Diego Pride Celebration was the first time active duty military personnel joined retirees, according to local reports. About 200 service members wore T-shirts with symbols of their military branch during the event.
"Today is a great day of Pride! San Diego Pride is honored to have the privilege of celebrating our country and our service members with dignity and respect," said San Diego LGBT Pride Executive Director Dwayne Crenshaw in a statement released Thursday.
"The fight for equality is not over and it is not easy, but this is a giant leap in the right direction," Crenshaw said.
The Pentagon stated that the decision to allow military uniforms for the event is an exception that is only for this year's parade in San Diego and that there are no plans to extend the approval beyond this event.