(SAN DIEGO) About three dozen people gathered in Oceanside on Saturday for the first annual My Patriot's Pride. The purpose of the event was to honor LGBT veterans.
The site of the rally and march was selected because of its’ proximity to Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base. The lot is visible from Interstate 5 and is situated on a thoroughfare that hundreds of cars traverse, many of them occupied by off-duty Marines. A vigil to honor slain Seaman August Provost was held in this same location last summer, and the event was held in memory of Provost.
“Today is about our LGBT veterans. All these years they have tried to get recognition by marching in Veterans Day parades across the country, but the fact that many of these groups are asked to march in the back of the parades is deplorable” said Lisa Kove, lead organizer of the event and Executive Director of DOD FED Globe, noting what she feels has been poor placement for veterans in parade lineups.
Community activist Gabe Davis spoke about his experiences growing up in San Diego’s conservative East County region.
“There was always a conflict in understanding because I was told to love everyone, but then witnessed discrimination against certain groups of people, including the LGBT community,” said Davis.
Steve Hadley, Chief of Staff for San Diego City Councilmember Donna Frye and a candidate for the district six seat in the 2010 election, spoke about his background as a pastor and transition into municipal government. Although he is a strong believer in the separation of church and state, Hadley made it clear that he is not apologetic about carrying one piece of his religious background into City Hall.
“I believe that everyone should be treated equally and that we should do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” said Hadley. “I follow this message every day in my work.”
Joseph Rocha, a 23-year old who was discharged from the US Navy for being gay, asked the crowd to give a round of applause for the veterans who served before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was enacted in 1993. “DADT is hurtful and destructive but I cannot imagine being in the service before it was in place,” said Rocha.
Other speakers included veteran Camille Davidson and her wife Maureen Steiner; veteran Evelyn Thomas; Tom and Richard Wilhein, a couple who has been together for over 30 years; and transgender veteran Autumn Sandeen, who served in the navy for 20 years.
The rally was followed by a march along Coast Highway, as participants carried U.S. and rainbow pride flags. Kove led the marchers in equal rights chants, and noted that “in this parade, LGBT people can be in the front… we are never marching in the back again.”