Despite inclusion in memo, Trans people still barred from service
by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
In a memorandum dated May 31, signed by Clarence Johnson, Director of the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, the Department of Defense has designated June as LGBT Pride Month for the second year in a row.
Last year, the Pentagon boldly said it would mark June as LGBT Pride Month just as it marks other events honoring racial or ethnic groups, Defense Department officials had said.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a 2012 video posted on the Pentagon's website that he believes it's important to recognize the service of Gays in the armed forces. He went on to thank Gay and Lesbian service members for their service and congratulated the military on a smooth implementation of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT).
Under the 1993 law, Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual troops were prohibited from disclosing their sexual orientation or speaking out about any such relationships while they served in the military, or they would be forced to leave the service. More than 13,000 lost their jobs as a result.
DADT was official U.S. policy until September 20, 2011.
Congress repealed DADT in December 2010, but it remained in place through a court challenge that ultimately upheld the repeal. Military leaders also were given time to determine that the repeal would not hurt military readiness.
Eventually, it came to light that military readiness has not been adversely impacted by the open service of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual service men and women. Gender discrimination is still in effect, however, and Transgender persons are still forbidden to serve.
'A PROUD CHAPTER'
In the May 31 memo, Johnson writes, 'The Department of Defense (DoD) joins the Nation in celebrating LGBT Pride Month during the month of June.'
'We recognize Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual service members and LGBT civilians for their dedicated service to our country. Each year of his administration, President Obama has issued a proclamation recognizing that our national security is strengthened by heroic contributions these Americans make to our Department, and have made throughout history,' said Johnson.
'The LGBT community has written a proud chapter in this fundamentally American story by reminding us that integrity and respect remain cornerstones of our military and civilian culture,' he explained, referring to the fact that under DADT, Gays and Lesbians were forced to lie about who they really were in order to serve; now that is no longer required.
'Diversity and equality make the American Dream possible for every American,' continued Johnson. 'During the month of June, I encourage DoD personnel to recognize the accomplishments of all members of our workforce, and, in doing so, we celebrate the significance of diversity in building a brighter future for all citizens.'
News that the Pentagon would recognize June as LGBT Pride Month for a second year in a row was well-received, as one would imagine. Still, OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson says there is still more work to be done.
While acknowledging Transgender civilian DOD employees, the memorandum notably omits any mention of the contributions of Transgender people in uniform - presumably because Transgender people remain barred from service by outdated and obsolete medical regulations.
'Transgender people have served this nation with pride, honor, and distinction - and continue to do so in the hundreds, if not thousands,' Robinson said. 'It's past time to honor them for their service and sacrifice, and past time to end the discredited and obsolete practice of forcing them to serve in silence and fear.'
Robinson did, however, praise the decision to recognize June as LGBT Pride Month by the DoD.
'It is appropriate and gratifying that Secretary Hagel and his leadership team would follow the historic precedent set last year by then-Secretary Leon Panetta by designating June as LGBT Pride Month for the Department of Defense. Acknowledging the accomplishments and contributions of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual service members sends an important message all the way down the chain of command - that our military is stronger, and our nation safer, because it includes them,' said Robinson.
OutServe-SLDN, the association of actively serving LGBT military personnel, has more than 50 chapters and 6,500 members worldwide. Its members and supporters will be participating in more than 20 LGBT Pride events around the world this summer.
SAN DIEGO: NO UNIFORMS
Controversy arose last year when Panetta allowed uniformed service members to march in the San Diego LGBT Pride parade.
In a memorandum sent to all its branches, the department said it was making the allowance for San Diego's Pride parade even though its policy generally bars troops from marching in uniform in parades. The Defense Department said it did so because organizers had encouraged military personnel to march in their uniform, and the event was getting national attention.
In 2001, San Diego's Pride parade had the nation's largest contingency of active-duty troops participate before the military lifted its ban on openly Gay service members. About 200 service members last year wore T-shirts with their branch's name.
The Defense Department said in its message to the service members that they should adhere to policy regarding behavior while wearing their uniforms - namely, they could not appear to endorse or selectively benefit groups or individuals, provide a platform for a political message, or appear to be commercially sponsored. They also must ensure their presence in uniform is not intended to increase sales or traffic for any business. The waiver of the no-uniforms rule applied only to the San Diego parade.
Still, some found the allowance offensive. In a letter to Panetta, Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma pressed Panetta on why the waiver was granted, who requested it, and why it was considered over others.
Inhofe, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, also pointed out that administrative action has been taken against service members who have violated the rule.
'If the Navy can punish a chaplain for participating in a pro-life event or a Marine participating in a political rally, it stands to reason that the Defense Department should maintain the same standard and preclude service members in uniform from marching in a Gay Pride Parade,' Inhofe wrote.
The Pentagon has not granted any such waiver in 2013. As the policy stands, members of the U.S. Armed Forces are prohibited to wear their uniform while marching in a Gay Pride parade. They can, however, do so in civilian clothes.
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