Active duty military to join Pride paradeAround the City, Top Highlights Thursday, June 30th, 2011
For the first time in San Diego Pride’s history, and believed to be in the history of Pride anywhere, a contingent of active duty service members and veterans are planning to march in this year’s San Diego Pride parade, July 16, 11 a.m. in the heart of Hillcrest.
“It has always disturbed me that enlisted military don’t march in a Pride parade,” said veteran Navy Operations Specialist Sean Sala, who is organizing the San Diego group.
“We are excited to support our troops, and we commend the brave service members taking part in the parade, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego Pride. “This is believed to be the first active duty military contingent marching in a Pride parade anywhere in the country.”
After Pride announced the military group’s participation, and after a television report on 10 News, interest has been spreading rapidly not only in San Diego, but across the country. Sala has changed his first estimate of 200 participants to almost 300 participants, which could make it the largest entry in this year’s parade.
“As a general rule, we tend to tell contingents not to have more than 100 people,” said San Diego Pride Parade Coordinator Ben Orgovan, adding, “that’s more so that nothing becomes monotonous and keeps the crowd interested. (I don’t have that) worry with the military contingent; I think that will be quite a crowd pleaser.”
“I am getting so many e-mails from service members and having conversations with veterans who tell me that they never expected to see this in a Pride parade in their lifetime, and they think this is pretty amazing,” he said. “It’s a huge reference that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has caused so much pain and such a stereotype, and it’s finally time that America is moving on. It’s a sign that the social norm in America is moving toward more acceptance of the LGBT community.”
To join the group, log on to Facebook.com and search for “Military Float for San Diego Pride 2011!”
With Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military – Sala said the parade contingent is following all appropriate protocols. The marchers, for example, will not be wearing uniforms, but T-shirts representing their respective branch. Not everyone marching is part of the LGBT community, too; at least a quarter of those who have signed up to participate are straight allies, according to Sala.
“There is an immediate assumption that if you march, you’re gay. This has meant that we can’t even honor straight service members. For years, other public servants like police and firefighters have been honored in the Pride parade. It is time for our troops to receive the same support.”
The service members will kick off the parade after a tribute is held to fallen soldiers and LGBT community leaders who have passed. Those who died in combat and community leaders who dedicated life service to equality will be honored by two riderless horses draped in an American and rainbow flag, respectively.
San Diego Pride and Sala are seeking donations of any amount to help fund the group’s float, T-shirts and free tickets for service members to Pride’s two-day festival in Balboa Park. A proper float costs $3,500, but Sala said a donation of just $25 can fund four T-shirts.
Donations can be mailed to San Diego LGBT Pride, 3620 30th St., San Diego, CA 92104; be sure to indicate the donation is for the military parade contingent. Donations by credit card can be made by calling 619-297-7683.
For more information about Pride, log on to sandiegopride.org.
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