In what appears to be an extraordinary reversal of military policy, members of the U.S. armed forces say they have been given permission by their commanding officers to march in a "gay pride" parade Saturday – while wearing their service-issued uniforms.
Meanwhile, WND has learned, one of the top officers who approved the decision has since entered retirement.
The top echelons of the U.S. Air Force approved a request by a senior recruiter based in Arizona to join "a uniformed, active-duty military contingent" in a San Diego homosexual pride event, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.
The decision breaks down generations of tight limits on when and where a service member is allowed to appear in uniform, and appears to stray from the Department of Defense regulations on the use of uniforms, dated 2005 and signed by Defense Undersecretary David S.C. Chu, which says using the U.S. military uniform is prohibited in a number of scenarios.
Those include "in connection with furthering political activities, private employment or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship of the activity or interest may be drawn."
Using the uniform also is banned "When wearing the uniform may tend to bring discredit upon the armed forces," and while former members are allowed to wear them for funerals, memorial services, weddings, and "other parades … in which any active or reserve United States military unit is taking part," the regulations state, "wearing of the uniform or any part thereof at any other time or for any other purpose is prohibited."
Current Air Force rules say members may appear in uniform "at local community-wide civic-sponsored events only when the approving commander believes participating is appropriate and in good taste; the individuals volunteer for the assignment; there is no interference with military duties or operations; participation involves no additional cost to the government; and the event meets the basic participation criteria below."
That section specifies that an event "intended to, or which appears to endorse, selectively benefit, or favor any private individual, special interest group, business, religious, ideological movement, commercial venture, political candidate, or organization" would be "disapproved."
Yet Joanna Gasca, a reserve Air Force recruiter, told the San Diego Union Times that she has been given permission by her chain of command to appear in uniform at Saturday's San Diego "Gay Pride Parade."
A spokeswoman at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where Gasca is assigned, confirmed to WND that the decision came from high up in the military's ranks.
Meredith Mingledorff of the 944th Public Affairs Office said Gasca's commander told her the approval came from Lt. Col. Pratt of the Secretary of the Air Force's public affairs office.
However, she also said Pratt had immediately retired and was not available to respond to questions about his decision.
At the time of this report, his profile was scrubbed from the Air Force website, although a cached version available on Google revealed a Lt. Col. Leslie J. Pratt had served as director of public affairs at headquarters of the Air Force Reserve Command in Georgia for several years.
He entered the military in 1979 as a mechanic and was commissioned a second lieutenant upon completion of training in 1988.
"That's where she got permission," Mingledorff told WND.
The Air Force did not respond to WND's requests to ask Pratt about his decision, or to obtain comment from his successor.
WND earlier had contacted Air Force headquarters, where Maj. Joel Harper told WND that such decisions were allowed but were made at the local command level, referring WND to Luke Air Force Base.
When asked if the precedent would allow a service member to appear in uniform at a GOP event, a Democrat event, a pro-life rally or the like, Harper's response was mere silence.
A spokesman at Luke Air Force Base told WND the chain of command responsible for Gasca was at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Officials there demurred, saying the command was, in fact, at Luke. Mingledorff, finally tracked down at Luke, told WND that Gasca wasn't even in the 944th's command structure, but her office simply was "providing her service" in responding to questions.
A former member of the U.S. military confirmed that such use of uniforms in the past has been regulated strictly. The veteran, who asked to remain anonymous, told WND, "It is such a big deal, that, unless the event is specifically approved by the military, you are strictly forbidden from appearing in uniform.
"If you do it without permission, you will be written up (getting a warning that goes in your file that may threaten Uniform Code of Military Justice action if you continue. You might even be threatened with demotion and loss of pay)," the former member said. "When members of the military wear their uniforms, they represent our armed forces. It's not taken lightly."
Next, WND contacted the Department of Defense.
DoD spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez said military members are allowed to march or ride in "nonpartisan" parades while wearing civilian clothing – but she made no specific mention of "gay pride parades."
However, she said members of the military may only wear uniforms in a parade when they have been given permission by the DoD – or are part of a ceremonial unit in an approved "community-relations" event.
"Except when authorized per DoD or service policies (such as a community-relations approved ceremonial unit), military members are restricted from wearing uniforms while participating in parades," she said.
Lainez said the DoD advises military service members to obtain permission from their own unit commanders before marching in parades.
"We always recommend service members consult their chain of command before participating in any parade," she said. "When troops are requested to participate in parades, commanders must determine if military participation in the event is appropriate per DoD community relations policies and does not violate policies regarding wearing of the uniform, to include preventing any inferences that a service member's activities may imply official sponsorship or endorsement."
Lainez referenced DoD Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, and DoD Instruction 1334.01, which contains guidance and limitations on the wear of military uniforms.
Lainez copied numerous high-ranking officers in her response to WND, none of whom had responded to requests for comment at the time of this report.
The San Diego newspaper also featured an image of Army Spc. Brenna Saldana participating, in her military-issued combat fatigues, in a ceremony raising a rainbow flag at San Diego State University just days ago.
The report from Matthew Hall said organizers for the parade coming on Saturday "urged service members to ask their commanding officers for permission to march in their uniforms."
Some requests were rejected, but not all, according to the report.
"Gasca … cried when she read the email containing the approvals she needed to return home and march in her uniform in front of her family," it said.
The move appears to be the latest by Obama's administration to normalize homosexuality in the U.S. military, a campaign highlighted by Congress' decision to overturn the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allow open homosexuality in the ranks.
The military earlier declared June "Gay Pride Month" and held events to mark the occasion. Military officials attribute the motivation behind the event to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's desire to single out and honor homosexual military personnel for their service.
"Now that we've repealed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' he feels it's important to find a way this month to recognize the service and professionalism of gay and lesbian troops," stated Capt. John Kirby, a Navy spokesman.
The Thomas More Law Center noted that the premise of normalized homosexual behavior not having a significant impact is fabricated.
"To accomplish this political objective [of normalizing homosexual behavior in the military], Pentagon officials utilized rigged public opinion polls, leaks of false information and muzzling of combat commanders who opposed the repeal," the law center reported in a public statement.
Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly believes that the aggressive policies and instruction administered to all 2.25 million armed forces members are far from what many would consider progress.
"It's too early to report any success, but indicators show that there are negative consequences of the new military policy known as LGBT law, which was created at the repeal of the 1993 law called DADT," Donnelly told WND in an exclusive interview. "Trends are not good."
Donnelly points to the CMR Policy Analysis called "Chilling Trend of Sexual Assault in the Military," which reports that "sexual assault in all branches of the services have increased by 22 percent since 2007." It also states that violent attacks and rapes in the Army have nearly doubled since 2006 to 1,313 last year, with 5 percent of the assaults on men. Furthermore, it reported that in "all branches of the service, male sexual assault victims have increased significantly, from 10 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in confidential reports."
The trend continues, says Donnelly, who stresses that it can hardly be considered “success.”
When asked whether the Pentagon overstepped it boundaries by planning an event celebrating homosexuality when the originally declared intent of the policy change was only to tolerate the open expression of homosexuality, Donnelly answered to the affirmative.
"Yes, but this should have been foreseen by those signing the current LGBT law in 2010, which now controls the military," Donnelly replied. "In the early 1990s, the Clinton administration held a similar celebration called the 'Diversity Gay Training Event,' and the demonstrations by LGBT activists there were so offensive and controversial to Christians and non-Christians alike that Clinton never held the event again."
Donnelly said the promotion of homosexuality will just grow, pointing to a WND article earlier this year titled, "Marines starting to look ridiculous."
The overriding concern for many, however, is the impact on national security.
"There is no constitutional right to serve in the military," the CMR president explained, emphasizing that segregation based on sexuality has always been rational and customary. "They blur the issue with irrational segregation, such as racial segregation, which has no reasonable basis. Sexual privacy is necessary for troops to function properly in our military, but this is no longer respected as it has been in the past."
The Thomas More Law Center agrees that the current administration putting LGBT law into the military puts both soldiers and citizens in danger, and its attorneys continue to challenge this threat to America’s national security.
"This new law will ultimately destroy unit cohesion and morale, reduce the number of heterosexual volunteers, and considerably degrade the ability of the military to defend our nation, their first responsibility," said Thomas More Law Center President and Chief Counsel Richard Thompson. "Our military men and women, our sons and daughters, should not be subjected to an involuntary social experiment which will damage our national security. That's why we will continue our efforts to oppose this immoral law."