Less than 24 hours after WND reported at least one member of the U.S. Air Force had been authorized by commanding officers to march in a "gay pride" parade while wearing service-issued uniforms – upsetting a generations-old policy about how service members are allowed to display the image – the Department of Defense granted blanket permission for members of the Armed Forces to do the same.
After WND contacted branches of the military and the Department of Defense to inquire about the authorization Wednesday, the DoD told said it made today's decision because the event was getting national attention.
In making its latest announcement, the DoD delivered its statement to LGBT Weekly– a San Diego publication for the "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."
However, while the DoD statement expanded the authorization for Saturday's San Diego event, it appeared to pull back the reach of its permission for future homosexual parades, because the statement specified that it was for this event only.
Just one day earlier, when WND contacted Air Force headquarters, Maj. Joel Harper said such decisions were allowed but were made at the local command level, and referred WND to Luke Air Force Base, in the chain of command for a single Air Force member who reported getting permission.
There was no mention at the time that it was for the San Diego event only, which is clear in the latest evolution of the military's position.
The DoD statement to LGBT Weekly quotes Rene Bardor, deputy assistant secretary of defense for community and public outreach.
"It is our understanding that event organizers plan to have a portion of the parade that is dedicated to military members … we further understand organizers are encouraging service members to seek their commanders approval to march in uniform and to display their pride," the statement says. "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, provided service members 1) participate in their personal capacity, and 2) ensure the adherence to Military Service standards of appearance and wear of the uniform.
"The permission is granted for the 2012 San Diego PRIDE Parade only."
The issue developed when a senior recruiter in the Air Force told the San Diego Union Tribune that she had been given permission to march in uniform in Saturday's event.
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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. Leslie 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. The Air Force did not respond to WND's requests to ask Pratt about his decision, or to obtain comment from his successor.
But the chief of a public policy group that specializes in promoting the high standards and sound priorities in the making of military personnel policies, told WND the Pentagon is on "thin ice" by allowing the policy deviation, as it provides a special benefit to homosexuals not given to others in the military.
Elaine Donnelly, of the Center for Military Readiness, said the decision had to have come from the White House, as officers in public affairs units would not have such authority.
"It's coming from President Obama, and he doesn't seem to understand you don't have special interest pressure groups in the military," she told WND. "Groups that set themselves apart to advocate a special interest agenda."
She continued, "In the military you don't get to express yourself in your personal way, with dress or behavior. There is a set of regulations, the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Many things that are legal for civilians are not legal in the military for a good reason. You have to wear a uniform. You don't get to choose how you're going to wear your hair."
The goal, she said, is a unity of purpose that is necessary for successful military campaigns.
The introduction then, of sexuality in the ranks, by the open display of homosexual behavior, "divides" the ranks.
It's for the same reason for years "fraternization" has been forbidden in the military, as two people "bonding" can have a disruptive influence on the military goals and plans, she said.
"The Pentagon is on thin ice," she said. "They're showing favoritism to LGBT activities in the military, and that is not helpful to the armed forces as a whole. This looks like a presidential response to a political faction. The LGBT left expects this."
She said these issues have arisen now because when Congress overturned the longstanding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, under which homosexuals were allowed to serve as long as they didn't make a public issue of their lifestyle, the military failed to follow congressional requirements and submit rules and regulations for behavior.
Gordon Klingenschmitt, formerly a Navy chaplain who runs the Pray In Jesus Name organization and recently finished his doctoral studies, said the double-standard inevitably will cause problems.
"As a former Navy chaplain improperly punished for praying 'in Jesus' name' in my uniform (and later vindicated by Congress), I believe the homosexual activists, marching in uniform at the gay 'pride' parade, are openly violating military uniform regulations," he told WND.
"My commander once told me that wearing the uniform at political events is prohibited UNLESS you are engaged in a sincere act of public worship. When I prayed in uniform, the judge ruled my prayer was not public worship, but instead I was worshiping in public, so I could be punished for wearing the uniform.
"I suspect the homosexuals will not march as an act of sincere public worship, but as a political statement. I also suspect they will not be punished as I was, by heavy-handed officials. There is a double-standard when Christians are punished, but homosexuals are not."
Just yesterday, DoD spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez told WND 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.
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.
Donnelly noted there are other suggestions of trouble, too. She pointed 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."