A color guard of veterans clad in military dress uniform plans to lead the Colorado Springs Pride Parade on Sunday, in what is believed to be the first time past or present service members will guide the colorful parade, organizers said.
“We’re everywhere — we are every type of people,” said Sarah Alder, a former reservist who often worked at Fort Carson until leaving the Army in 2008. “And we’re not hiding. And we’re not going to lie to you about who we are.”
Buoyed by the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law in September, openly gay and lesbian troops from across the Pikes Peak region plan to appear in the parade that goes down Tejon Street.
It is the latest in a growing trend of service members showcasing their sexuality at gay pride events across the country — one that drew attention from the Defense Department.
For the first time, the military will allow troops to march at a gay pride event decked in uniform for a parade on Saturday in San Diego — an exception laid out in a recent memorandum that applied only to that event. More than 300 service members are expected.
The Defense Department policy says personnel cannot march in parades in uniform unless they receive approval from their commanding officers or other Pentagon-approved authorities.
The Defense Department said the exception was made because the event received national attention and military personnel had been encouraged to wear their uniforms by event organizers, the Associated Press reported. The parade — titled “America’s Pride” — also was “patriotic in nature” and included a tribute to the military, said Eileen Lainez, a Defense Department spokeswoman.
The Pentagon has increasingly warmed to the notion of gays and lesbians serving openly. In June, it joined the rest of the U.S. government in marking June as gay pride month.
About 15 to 20 active-duty service members plan to march in the Colorado Springs parade with the advocacy group OutServe.
The group — another first for the parade — plans to wear T-shirts, said Tech Sgt. Ashley Metcalf, an Air Force reservist at Buckley Air Force Base who is with OutServe. He said he was fine not wearing his uniform.
“We’re not trying to make a statement as much as we are there supporting other military members that are GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender),” said Metcalf, who deployed to Iraq in 2004 and Afghanistan in 2007 while on active duty.
The veterans heading the parade, however, plan to be in full dress uniform, said Luiza Fritz, sergeant of the guard.
That will include Alder, who recounted a “terrifying” experience signing a paper acknowledging “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2000.
Alder said she constantly looked over her back while working her way up to sergeant. She left, in part, due to fears that another soldier would spark an investigation into her sexual orientation.
After leaving, she held a wedding ceremony in Garden of the Gods with her partner. Alder’s partner changed her last name and each changed the other’s medical power of attorney.
She hopes the march empowers other gay and lesbian service members.
“With being such a very prominent military town, it’s going to be a very profound thing to see and be a part of,” Alder said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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