A group of roughly 250 active-duty
troops, veterans and their supporters marched in Saturday's San Diego
Gay Pride Parade.
Wearing t-shirts advertising their
branch of military service, the men and women each carried a rainbow
flag as they marched. All branches of the military were represented
in what is believed to be first time active-duty troops have
participated in such an event.
Under the military's “Don't Ask,
Don't Tell” policy, gay and bisexual service members are banned
from publicly declaring their sexual orientation. Such a declaration
could result in a discharge from the military.
According to Reuters, a Pentagon
spokesperson said active-duty troops are not prohibited from marching
in parades while wearing civilian clothes, and that participation
“does not constitute a declaration of sexual orientation.”
However, footage of the parade showed
several members holding hands and even kissing.
Twenty-four-year-old Marine Corporal
Will Rodriguez-Kennedy said he believes troops will be able to march
in uniform in next year's parade.
“One of my friends here has been back
from Afghanistan for three days, and when he heard about the parade
he said he served in uniform and he should be able to march in
uniform,” Rodriguez-Kennedy, who is on active duty, told Reuters.
The march came on the heels of Friday's
news that “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” is back on, the
latest development in an ongoing legal challenge to the law. But
the federal appeals court that granted the Obama administration's
emergency request added that the government is not allowed to
discharge any service member who is openly gay.
“This is one of the proudest days in
my life,” National Guard member Nichole Herrera, 31, told the AP.
“It's time for it (the policy) to be gone. I'm a solider no matter
what, regardless of my sexual orientation.”