San Diego, CA —
A group of roughly 250 active-duty troops, veterans and their supporters marched in Saturday's San Diego Gay Pride Parade.
Wearing t-shirts advertising their branch of military service, the men and women each carried a rainbow flag as they marched. All branches of the military were represented in what is believed to be first time active-duty troops have participated such an event.
Under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, gay and bisexual service members are banned from publicly declaring their sexual orientation. Such a declaration could result in a discharge from the military.
According to Reuters, a Pentagon spokesperson said active-duty troops are not prohibited from marching in parades while wearing civilian clothes, and that participation "does not constitute a declaration of sexual orientation."
However, footage of the parade showed several members holding hands and even kissing.
Twenty-four-year-old Marine Corporal Will Rodriguez-Kennedy said he believes troops will be able to march in uniform in next year's parade.
"One of my friends here has been back from Afghanistan for three days, and when he heard about the parade he said he served in uniform and he should be able to march in uniform," Rodriguez-Kennedy, who is on active duty, told Reuters.
The march came on the heels of Friday's news that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is back on, the latest development in an ongoing legal challenge to the law. But the federal appeals court that granted the Obama administration's emergency request added that the government is not allowed to discharge any service member who is openly gay.
"This is one of the proudest days in my life," National Guard member Nichole Herrera, 31, told the AP. "It's time for it (the policy) to be gone. I'm a solider no matter what, regardless of my sexual orientation."
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