SAN DIEGO -- Any service member of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force can march proudly in uniform in the military contingent at San Diego Pride on Saturday.
The official word came down from the Defense Department this afternoon giving a blanket permission for all branches of the military to march while dressed in their uniforms.
"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," said Dwayne Crenshaw, San Diego LGBT Pride executive director. “The fight for equality is not over and it is not easy, but this is a giant leap in the right direction.”
The memo was issued by Reni C. Bardorf, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community Outreach. Here is what the letter, in part, said:
"Service members do not need approval to wear civilian clothes and march or ride in nonpartisan parades. However, we further understand organizers are encouraging service members to seek their commander's approval to march in uniform and to display their pride.
"... We hereby are granting approval for service members in uniform to participate in this year's parade, provided service members (1) participate in their personal capacity and (2) ensure the adherence to Military Service standards of appearance and wear of the military uniform. This approval is applicable for individual participation in the 2012 San Diego Pride Parade only."
SDGLN broke two stories on Wednesday that were picked up all over the U.S. that the military was sending mixed messages about whether service members could march in uniform in the military contingent at Pride Parade on Saturday. Local activists and politicians went to work behind the scenes to put pressure on the Defense Department to make a decision that was fair and equal to all branches of the military. With the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," it seemed odd that the DoD would not issue a blanket permission that applied to every service member.
In her letter, Bardorf acknowledged that the Pride military contingent story "has garnered national media attention" and that the DoD was reacting as a result.