Marine Cpl. Jennifer Pirante of Camp Pendleton, Calif., hands out American flags to the crowd at the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade on July 21, 2012. (Photo courtesy of Garth Langley)
By Gina Harkins
California-based Marines who want to participate in this weekend’s gay pride parade in San Diego have been given the go-ahead to wear their military uniforms.
In a news release on Wednesday, I Marine Expeditionary Force officially approved the following uniforms for Saturday’s parade:
■Blue dress “deltas” with ribbons.
■Service “charlies” with ribbons.
■Blue dress “bravos” with ribbons and/or badges.
The release stated that the command was taking proactive measures on uniform approval to ensure that Marines and their families received accurate and timely information concerning their ability to participate in the military contingent of the 2013 San Diego Pride Parade. It’s the third year the parade has welcomed active-duty troops to participate in its military contingent, which recognizes lesbian, gay and bisexual service members.
Last year, in a memorandum sent to all branches, the Defense Department allowed service members to wear their uniforms in the parade, granting a one-time exception to its policy that generally barred troops from marching in uniform during parades. That exception was granted after conflicting decisions by military commanders who had received requests from subordinates wanting to wear their uniforms in the parade.
At the time, defense officials said they did so because organizers had encouraged military personnel to march in their uniforms and the parade was getting national attention.
Traditionally, however, these types of decisions are made by local commanders.
First Lt. Garth Langley, a public affairs officer with I MEF, said Wednesday’s decision was a first for the Marine Corps. It’s significant, he added, because of the large military population in San Diego, which is home to tens of thousands of Marines and sailors.
The approval from I MEF came after Navy Region Southwest, which oversees the Marine force there, approved participation in uniform. Stephen Whitburn, the San Diego pride parade general manager, said organizers were grateful to hear about the approval, according to a news release put out by parade officials.
“San Diego has a strong military presence and a large [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community, and it is important to our LGBT service members that we honor their full identity and service to our country,” Whitburn said.