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SAN DIEGO – Just when it appeared that LGBT troops could march openly and proudly in their military uniforms in the San Diego Pride Parade on Saturday, a last-minute hitch has tossed confusion on the hundreds of service members who had planned to participate.
San Diego Gay & Lesbian News learned today that a top Navy official in San Diego has alerted Pride officials that there is a Navy ban on sailors marching in uniform at civic events. San Diego Pride is the largest civic event in America's Finest City, expected to attract almost 200,000 people this year.
This Navy edict is in direct contrast to both the Air Force and the Army, which had granted approval for several of its service members to march in the parade.
SDGLN has also learned that the Marine Corps was never approached by any active-duty service member to march in uniform in the parade. The Coast Guard denied requests to march, SDGLN reports.
San Diego Pride officials are now scrambling to clarify the urgent situation, so that troops do not get into trouble with their commands. They have appealed to Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego), to advocate for the freedom to march openly and in uniform.
Fernando Lopez, one of the Pride organizers of the military contingent, said Pride has not yet reacted to the letter. Prior to the update on this story, he was heading into a radio interview and was rushed for time.
Update No. 1
Lopez confirmed that the Army and Air Force have approved the use of military uniforms in the Pride Parade, that the Marines and the Coast Guard have not, and that the Navy remains in question.
He said he spoke to military officials on Tuesday and informed them of what was going to happen at the Pride Parade, and that nobody said that Pride was doing anything out of step with regulations. "We have not heard back from them," Lopez said.
Lopez said he has not heard back yet from Rep. Davis, who has been closely monitoring the situation. Stay tuned for further updates.
Update No. 2
@OutServeSLDN tweeted @KenSanDiego to the reaction from David McKean, SLDN Legal Director. The key point in McKean's blog is this:
The bottom line, as stated above, is this: it is the responsibility of each service member who wishes to wear a military uniform to pride to obtain individual command approval for doing so.
That is exactly what San Diego Pride's position has been all along.
The letter in question
SDGLN obtained a copy of a letter sent to Sean Sala, one of the organizers of the military contingent. It reads:
Subject: NMCSD active duty participation in community parades
Directors, SELs, DH's -
The San Diego Pride coordinators recently announced on their website that "service members have received approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and their commanding officers to march in the America's Pride Parade Military Contingent while wearing their uniforms."
This is not accurate. There is no such authorization for this parade.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Public Affairs will be addressing this misinformation with the SD Pride coordinators.
Accurate guidance from OSD is as follows: While wearing civilian clothes, in your personal capacity, military members may march or ride in nonpartisan parades.
Also, it is our command policy that any media participation that identifies affiliation with the Naval Service requires PAO approval to ensure the member receives proper training for media participation.
I will put out a generic reminder in a Command Note about parade and media participation but I need your help in communicating these requirements in an informative and supportive manner that will keep our sailors from running afoul of DOD and Navy policy during this weekend's event.
Thanks in advance.
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