Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) on Tuesday sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta questioning why servicemembers were allowed to march in uniform in San Diego’s Pride Parade.
“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 DOD should maintain the same standard and preclude service members in uniform from marching in a gay pride parade,” Inhofe wrote.
“Based on the current standing DOD Directive 1344.10 and separate service department regulations, service members ‘shall not march or ride in a partisan political parade,’” he added. “These directives and regulations are unambiguous and straight forward with the intent of preserving the military’s apolitical stance.
Inhofe said he was concerned the Obama administration was forcing “its liberal social agenda on the military by promoting the homosexual agenda.”
Defense Department policy generally prohibits active duty servicemembers from participating in political events while in uniform. In June, a contingent of military personnel received approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to march in the 2012 San Diego Pride Pride in uniform.
“Before the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage,” Panetta said. “And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself. And now after repeal, you can be proud of serving your country, and be proud of who you are when in uniform.”
Dozens of active duty servicemembers and veterans marched in the Pride Parade on July 21. Some wore their uniforms, while others wore branch specific military t-shirts.
San Diego made international news in 2011 when it became the first city in the United States to have an active duty military contingent in a Pride Parade. Servicemembers wearing civilian clothes do not need permission to march in any parades.
“To honor all servicemembers without regard to their sexual orientation is commendable, to pursue the United States’ value of equality is honorable, and to support those actions is genuinely American,” Dwayne Crenshaw, the executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride, said. “We fully support, agree with, and respect the decision by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and hope that this is just another step on the road to equality.”