Hundreds Of Active Duty Troops Join San Diego Gay Pride

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Photo by Rex Wockner.

From Karen Occamb at LGBT POV come this report from about 350 active duty servicemembers who joined a movement to appear in San Diego Pride's event held today. 





The idea for servicemembers to participate in the parade came from Sean Sala, 26, who served six years as a Navy operations specialist; he was discharged one June 30, 2011, according to a story in the San Diego Union Tribune.

“I’m getting emails from veterans and active-duty officers and enlisted from all over the nation. There are people flying in literally from the four corners of the nation to participate in this,” Sala told the Tribune. “It’s turned from a very small idea to, now, a national movement.”

In a conference call coordinated by San Diego gay reporter Rex Wockner, Sala told Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner and me that around 100 people started gathering before their meeting time at 10:00am and the contingent has continually swelled up until step-off time. Earlier he told the newspaper that of the 350 people signed up to participate, about 70 percent are active-duty servicemembers and the majority are gay.  

Wockner reported that many in the contingent are wearing tee shirts military colors emblazed with the names of their branch of service – Navy grey and Marine green.

Wockner conveys his impressions from the ground to Occamb:

And, he said, “The response was deafening, inspiring – there was a collective sense that something was happening that hadn’t happened before.”

Wockner said that he stood his ground to try to count the number of  participants in the contingent. He said they were broken into four groups: slightly more than 140 Navy in the first group, followed by slightly more Marines, with fewer than 10 Air Force and a handful of Army and Coast Guard brought up the rear.

A great day for visibility for LGB troops and Americans. 

The Associated Press' Julie Watson has coverage of this as well. This reporting has been picked up and widely distributed throughout mainstream press. 

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network spokesman Zeke Stokes cautions:

“We communicated to [Sean Sala] that anyone who participates is assuming a certain level of risk… We are looking forward to a time when LGBT service members can participate in these kinds of actions without any risk.”

Indeed, we've seen some strange and legally inconsistent applications of the DADT law since "repeal."

Fortunately for these troops the Justice Department's attempt to reinstate DADT on Thursday did not go as well as they planned. The Ninth allowed them to continue denying new applicants to service, ROTC or military academies but forbid the Department of Defense to investigate, initiate separation or discharge currently serving LGB troops. 

Sala isn't down with proceed cautiously and go slow. On fears of retributions he is quoted in the Navy SEALs Blog saying:

…that it may be time for the gay and lesbian community to “stop hiding in fear.”

One of those who intend to participate in the March is 21-year old Cpl. Jaime Rincon, a Camp PendletonMarine, who shared: “Finally someone is stepping up to the plate, someone has said: ‘We’re done hiding. Let’s do something about this. Let’s show everybody we’re proud of who we are and we’re proud of our branches of service.”

For today, these troops are safe from retaliation. It remains to be seen if the DOJ will appeal the Ninth's decision en banc or take their case for full reinstatement to the Supreme Court. 

Towleroad shares this this video:

Also this clip from ABC New's report:

National Guard member Nichole Herrera, 31, said she didn't think twice about marching, even though the policy is back on the books. She said she was "choked up" several times as she walked down a main thoroughfare in San Diego, a major Navy port. "This is one of the proudest days in my life. It's time for it (the policy) to be gone," Herrera said. "I'm a soldier no matter what, regardless of my sexual orientation."

Let's see some fierce urgency of now action on signing certification!