A senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee is demanding that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reveal whether he will allow uniformed members of the military to participate in more political events like the “gay” pride event last weekend in San Diego.
As WND reported, at least one member of the U.S. Air Force was authorized by commanding officers to march in the San Diego event in uniform, upsetting a generations-old policy. Less than 24 hours after the WND report, the Department of Defense granted blanket permission for members of the armed forces to participate in the Saturday parade in uniform.
After WND contacted branches of the military and the Department of Defense to inquire about the authorization last Wednesday, the DoD said it made the decision because the event was getting national attention.
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 the San Diego event, it appeared to limit it to last Saturday.
Now Sen. James M. Inhofer, R-Okla., wants answers.
“I respectfully request a detailed explanation of the rational[e] you used to grant this ‘one time waiver’ of DOD policy, who requested the waiver, why this waiver was considered justified over other requests, and whether you are considering other exceptions to current policy.”
The senator noted that under “current standing DOD Directive 1344.10 and separate service department regulations, service members ‘shall not march or ride in a partisan political parade.’”
“These directives and regulations are unambiguous and straight forward with the intent of preserving the military’s apolitical stance. This apolitical stance has served our military well and earned the respect of not just Americans but nations around the world as being a professional organization, set aside from politics and agendas,” Inhofe continued.
He noted that the abandonment of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy allows homosexuals to serve openly in the U.S. military.
“However, allowing service members to participate in a gay pride parade, while in uniform, is expressly prohibited by DOD policy. Under the current policy, DOD has used administrative action against active duty members that have participated in other political activities while in uniform,” he said.
“If the Navy can punish a chaplain for participating in a pro-life event or a Marine participating in a political rally, it stands to reason that DOD should maintain the same standard and preclude service members in uniform from marching in a gay pride parade,” he said.
When the issue arose last week with a published report quoting an Air Force recruiter saying she had been give special permission to march in uniform, WND contacted Air Force headquarters. Maj. Joel Harper said such decisions were allowed but were made at the local command level. He referred WND to Luke Air Force Base, in the chain of command for a single Air Force member who reported getting permission.
The next day, LGBT Weekly quoted 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 said. “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.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: At the request of one congressional member of the House Armed Services Committee, in early April WND sent to committee members, including Rep. Duncan Hunter, as well as staffers, 150 copies of the special Whistleblower issue, “DROPPING THE ‘H’-BOMB: As Obama and Congress force open homosexuality on America’s military, soldiers are fighting back.” Get your copy of this power-packed Whistleblower issue that has been widely acclaimed by Medal of Honor recipients and other military heroes as the best single argument against repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The “one-time” decision breaks down generations of tight limits on when and where a service member is allowed to appear in uniform. It 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.
The scenarios 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.” 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-Tribune that she had 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 high standards and sound priorities in 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 must 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 of sexuality in the ranks, by the open display of homosexual behavior, “divides” the ranks.
“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.”
Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former 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.”