Troops March in Uniform for First Time in Calif. Gay Parade

For the first time ever in the United States, troops wearing military uniforms marched in a gay parade in San Diego, Calif., on Saturday.

"Today is so important. It's about putting on my uniform and taking pride in my service, my fellow service-members, my family and myself," The Associated Press quoted Navy Lt. Brian McKinney, as saying. "It's something I'm incredibly thankful for," he added, marching with his civilian partner, Hunter Hammonds.

McKinney was among the dozens of soldiers, sailors, and Marines who marched alongside an old Army truck decorated with a "Freedom to Serve" banner and a rainbow flag. The participants met at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the intersection of Harvey Milk Street and Normal Street in San Diego for the parade.

It was held two days after the Pentagon announced it was allowing troops to wear their uniforms while marching in Saturday's gay pride parade as an exception to the rule. "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," read the directive.

Cmdr. Kent Blade, who is due to retire this fall, said it was a perfect culmination of his career. He also said that since last year's repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law, he had received unconditional support from his fellow officers. "We've all been able to talk more freely about our lives. Nobody's leading a second life," he said. "And now that I can march freely in uniform, I think it's a great display for the Navy."

"San Diego Pride is honored to have the privilege of celebrating our country and our servicemembers with dignity and respect," USA Today quoted Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride, as saying after the Pentagon directive. "The fight for equality is not over and it is not easy, but this is a giant leap in the right direction."

Last year's San Diego gay pride parade also made history with about 200 active-duty troops wearing T-shirts with their branch's name participating in it.