July 20th, 2012
05:41 AM ET

U.S. military can wear uniform in San Diego gay pride parade: Defense Department

By the CNN Wire Staff

The U.S. Department of Defense is giving the go-ahead to all active-duty military personnel to wear their uniform to march in a gay pride parade in San Diego on Saturday, the first time such approval has been given in the United States.

The Defense Department decision followed news that the Navy had given approval to sailors to wear their uniform in the parade, which drew hundreds of active-duty service members last year shortly before the administration repealed "don't ask, don't tell."

"Based on our current knowledge of the event and existing policies, we hereby are granting approval for service members in uniform to participate in this year's parade," Rene C. Bardorf, deputy assistant secretary of defense for community and public outreach, said in a memorandum released Thursday.

The blanket approval for the various branches of the military applies only to the 2012 San Diego Pride Parade, Bardorf said.

Just a year ago, an active-duty service member faced punishment or discharge if he or she admitted being homosexual, but last September the administration scrapped the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell."

The Defense Department approval to allow service members to wear uniforms at the San Diego parade follows reports that members of the military wore uniforms at a gay pride event held at the Pentagon in June.

Under the guidelines released by the Defense Department, service members can wear their uniforms to march in the parade as long as they participate "in a personal capacity" and follow set standards of "appearance and wear of the military uniform."

While members of the military do not need approval to participate in civic events, they generally need approval to wear their uniforms.

More than 300 active-duty service members have signed up to participate in the parade, Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride, said Thursday.

Last year, roughly 200 active-duty and retired military service members marched in the San Diego parade, donning T-shirts to indicate their branch of military service. The 2011 parade took place one day after a federal appeals court temporarily reinstated the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The policy was formally revoked months later.

- CNN's Adam Levine and Scott Thompson contributed to this report.

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