Military Lets Troops Wear Uniforms for Gay Pride Parade

In a stunning reversal of policy, DOD is allowing soldiers to march in a gay pride parade in uniform.

In a stunning reversal of policy, DOD is allowing soldiers to march in a gay pride parade in uniform.

BBC (“US military allowed to wear uniforms at gay pride march“):

The US military will for the first time allow its members to wear uniform at a gay pride march.

The permission was granted for the Gay Pride Parade in San Diego, California, on Saturday, a military-wide Pentagon directive said.

The memo said the move was a one-off exception for this year’s march only.

It comes after a longstanding ban on openly gay people serving in the US military – known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” – was ended last year.

“Based on our current knowledge of the event and current policies, we hereby are granting approval for service members in uniform to participate in this year’s parade,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Rene Bardorf said in the directive.

Permission was given on condition that military personnel take part in a personal capacity only and adhere to the US military’s standards on uniform wear, he added.

Now, this strikes me as bizarre because it’s at furtherance with longstanding DOD policies having nothing to do with gays in the military, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, or related controversies. DoD Directive 1334.1, “Wearing of the Uniform,” as amended, provides:

3.1. The wearing of the uniform by members of the Armed Forces (including retired members and members of Reserve components) is prohibited under any of the following circumstances:
3.1.1. At any meeting or demonstration that is a function of, or sponsored by an organization, association, movement, group, or combination of persons that the Attorney General of the United States has designated, under E.O. 10450 as amended (reference (b)), as totalitarian, fascist, communist, or subversive, or as having adopted a policy of advocating or approving the commission of acts of force or violence to deny others their rights under The Constitution of the United States, or as seeking to alter the form of Government of the United States by unconstitutional means.
3.1.2. During or in connection with the furtherance of political activities, private employment or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity or interest may be drawn.
3.1.3. Except when authorized by competent Service authority, when participating in activities such as public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies or any public demonstration (including those pertaining to civil rights), which may imply Service sanction of the cause for which the demonstration or activity is conducted.

3.1.4. When wearing of the uniform would tend to bring discredit upon the Armed Forces.
3.1.5. When specifically prohibited by regulations of the Department concerned.

Emphasis mine. How in the world does this not constitute a political activity, march, rally, or public demonstration?  It’s all of the above.

How is this different from Dave Willoughby, a former Marine corporal, wearing his uniform at a Tea Party rally a decade after his departure from the service? Or Lt. Gordon J. Klingenschmitt, a Navy chaplain, wearing his uniform to a White House protest against a policy requiring only non-denominational prayer? (Granted, he specifically disobeyed a direct order not to do so.)

To be sure, a gay rights parade is theoretically non-partisan. But it’s simply understood that troops can not demonstrate for any cause while wearing their uniforms. And a gay rights rally is devoted to a cause.

“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 San Diego LGBT Pride Executive Director Dwayne Crenshaw in a statement. ”The fight for equality is not over and it is not easy, but this is a giant leap in the right direction.”

Note that the regulation specifically includes “civil rights” marches.

UPDATE: Yes, I realize that the Pentagon’s ruling constitutes the participation being “authorized by competent Service authority.” What I’m asking is Why this parade and not other events. Commenters have made comparisons with the Macy’s parade or even the St. Patrick’s Day parade. I don’t think they’re equivalent. Rather, gay pride parades are more akin to the black  freedom marches of the 1960s. Indeed, the organizer says so.

via Steve Hynd

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Military Affairs, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    They let that dude in the Village People wear his uniform.

  2. What about a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, James? Gayness isn’t a political identity. There is a political aspect, for sure, but it’s fundamentally a essentially personal facet.

  3. Gustopher says:

    @James: I remember years ago that there was an annual uproar about gay Irish-Americans marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, so that might not be the best example — St. Patrick’s Day parades can often be political, because of their religious elements.

    Anyway, so long as soldiers refrain from carrying political signs, or making political statements while in uniform, I don’t see a problem. Being gay is no more political than being black.

    (I just figured I’d set one up for Superdestroyer with that last sentence.)

  4. Vast Variety says:

    Service members are allowed to wear their uniforms in all sorts of parades. Macy’s Thanksgiving… The Rose Parade… Those aren’t any different than a gay pride parade. Sure there’s a political element, but that goes for pretty much any parade. During the 4th of July parade Grinnell had a there was a group of Republicans in it carrying signs demanding the repeal of the ACA. Should service members not be allowed to march in their uniforms in 4th of July parades?

  5. Andy says:

    Ironic that this comes after two women were reprimanded for breast feeding in uniform for an awareness campaign.

  6. jd says:

    1. The Pride parades I’ve participated in were not political events.
    2. The Pentagon counts as a “competent Service authority”.

  7. mattb says:


    I have to agree with everyone whose calling you on this position. I just doesn’t survive any “push.”

    If you accept, which I’m pretty sure you do, that being “gay” is biological — as opposed to a life style choice — then I think the argument falls apart. There are numerous “pride” parades — St Patrick’s being the most identifiable, but there’s also Columbus Day (Italian-American), Puerto Rican, Latino and Hispanic parades, Polish Parades, etc.

    To the degree that any of these parades are about recognition — and to be sure, that’s why all of them started — then they are political. But to argue that today’s Gay Pride Parades (versus Marches) are purely political — or at least more political than say the Hispanic’s day parade — seems problematic.

    Further, I’d argue that Chicago’s Disability Pride parade is far more political in nature than any of the a fore mention Pride parades, but I doubt that anyone would have an issue with an active duty disabled military member marching in uniform at that event.

  8. Franklin says:

    3.1.3 Except when authorized by competent Service authority …

    The Pentagon is allowing this particular parade as a one-off, which seems to fulfill this requirement.

    As for 3.1.2, I guess the political activity part is mildly debatable.

  9. Mikey says:

    Seems like a public relations thing to me, i. e. the military wants everyone to see gay servicemembers are allowed to identify themselves in public, and in uniform, without fear of repercussions.

    I’m a retired senior NCO and I’ve long supported allowing gays to serve, so I have no problem allowing this, although it does strike me as odd given the generally political connotation of “pride” marches.

  10. Scott says:

    Even before I got to your update, I thought of St Patrick’s Day Parade or MLK day parades and I think these are the correct analogies. I know we tend to view everything as political but for the sake of our national sanity we should refrain from doing so.

  11. Folderol & Ephemera says:

    I think the key elements of 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 may be the phrases “inference of official sponsorship for the activity or interest” and “imply[ing] Service sanction of the cause for which the demonstration or activity is conducted,” especially since this is “authorized by competent Service authority.”

    IOW, the “competent Service authority” in this case (the Pentagon) is, in a way, implicitly “officially sponsoring/sanctioning” the cause of LGBT rights. Now that DADT has been repealed, a gay pride march can be seen more as a modern day MLK parade, rather than a “civil rights” march in the 60’s.

    Which, now that I think about it, probably makes this a bigger deal than I first thought.

  12. @Folderol & Ephemera:

    a gay pride march can be seen more as a modern day MLK parade

    If you google it, the military allows people to march at MLK day parades in uniform all the time.

  13. Mikey says:

    @Folderol & Ephemera: No comment, I just like your name.

  14. Folderol & Ephemera says:

    @Stormy Dragon: That’s my point, really. The racial equality movement of the 1950’s and 60’s is now “non-political” enough for the DoD, so there’s no problem with service members marching in uniform — and it looks like LGBT equality might be starting to achieve the same status (at least on a case-by-case basis). As far as the Pentagon is concerned, the more “political” connotations of a gay pride march were settled when DADT was no longer on the books.

    @Mikey: Much appreciated.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    I’m not gay, however over the years I’ve volunteered (participated) in some gay/lesbian events. The the purpose of those events was not political, that is unless you think raising funds for gay/lesbian community groups is directly political.

  16. Ohso says:

    The Strange, Strange Story of Gay Fascists.
    10/21, 2008 by Johann Hari – Huffington Post

    The lost boys of Afghanistan by: JOEL BRINKLEY

  17. Bill says:

    There’s really nothing new here, almost all the pictures of the folks marching are Navy.