Thursday, July 14, 2011
A military contingent is organizing to take part of San Diego’s Lesbian Gay Transgender Bisexual (LGBT) Pride Parade this Saturday. It's the first group of openly gay enlisted servicemembers to march in a pride event in the United States.
Sean Sala, a former Navy sailor who is organizing the contingent, said he expects about 350 people to join in for the parade.
“We have LGBT enlisted men and women, their families and fellow straight servicemembers who support the cause," he said.
Those participating have been warned to be cautious, though. Technically, the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy banning open homosexuality has not been fully repealed, even though a federal court this month ordered the immediate end of DADT.
Bridget Wilson, a San Diego attorney and member of the Servicememebers Legal Defense Network, expressed her concern.
“They can talk about the issue, they can even protest about the issue,” she explained, “My concern is the difference between a group of servicemembers publicly supporting the repeal of DADT versus one individually saying: 'Hey, I’m Petty Officer Jones and I’m gay.' ”
Wilson said she agreed with Sala and the contingent’s goal, but wants to make sure no person is discharged for taking part in the parade while DADT nears its official end.
But Sala insists the time is now.
“Well, we do want to draw attention to ourselves,” he said. “We are living in post-DADT times. And, quite plain and simple, we want the military to be honored regardless of sexual orientation.”
While the participants cannot march in uniform, they plan on wearing shirts identifying their military branch.
San Diego, long considered a conservative stronghold, is seeing a shift in attitude toward gay rights. Two candidates for the mayoral race next year are openly gay, as are other local politicians.
The Annual Pride Parade is set to take place in Hillcrest this Saturday, originating on University Avenue.