“It is our understanding that event organizers plan to have a portion of the parade dedicated to military members,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community and Public Outreach Rene Bardorf wrote in an internal memo.
“We further understand organizers are encouraging service members to seek their commander’s approval to march in uniform and to display their pride,” Bardorf wrote.
Citing national media attention to the issue, Bardorf granted approval for service members to participate, but limited that approval in scope to the 2012 San Diego Pride Parade.
San Diego has a large military presence due to its naval base and the nearby Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Nearly 400 military members have already signed up to march in the parade, according to organizer San Diego LGBT Pride.
Many more are expected to participate in the military parade after the announcement went public, Fernando Lopez, the director of public affairs for San Diego LGBT Pride, told Reuters. More than 50,000 people are expected to attend the weekend festivities overall, organizers said.
“We are hopeful that those who have feared coming to share in the joy of Pride out of concern for losing their military careers will be able to finally celebrate their full and complete selves,” San Diego LGBT Pride said in a statement.
In the past, only armed services veterans, not those on active duty, were allowed to wear their uniforms at gay pride parades. Commanders could give permission to individuals to take part in such events in uniform but no blanket permission had previously been issued, Lopez said.
In a second internal memo published on Thursday, Bardorf said that for parades other than the San Diego event for which he issued a specific memo, local commanders are given discretion in allowing service members to participate unless it is “likely to garner national or international interest or news coverage.”
FIRST GAY MARRIAGE ON MILITARY BASE
The approval for active service members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and