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BREAKING NEWS: More than 315 sign up to march in San Diego Pride Parade's military contingent

(Editor's note: This article contains original material as well several quotes obtained through a news release.)

SAN DIEGO – Active-duty servicemembers have received official approval to march in their uniforms on July 21 as part of America’s Pride Parade military contingent, San Diego Pride officials said today.

Veterans can wear their uniforms in parades and now their active-duty brothers and sisters will be able to march in uniform alongside them with Pride, now that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) has been repealed.

In 2011, San Diego made international headlines as being the first U.S. city to have a large active-duty military contingent openly march in a Pride Parade. The active-duty troops were not allowed last year to wear their uniforms because DADT was still in effect, so instead they put on T-shirts naming their branch of service.

The military contingent got ear-splitting roars from an estimated 155,000 people lining the streets of Hillcrest watching the Pride Parade, which is the largest civic event in San Diego.

In 2012, under the theme of “America’s Pride,” San Diego Pride will be continuing its streak of breaking new ground and pushing forward on issues of equality. Honoring the nation’s servicemembers, veterans and their families is an important part of this message, Pride officials said.

Local military activist Sean Sala, who was among the organizers of the active-duty military contingent last year and is again involved in the planning this year, said late this afternoon that more than 315 troops have signed up to march in the parade. San Diego is a major military city, home to thousands of men and women serving in the Navy and the Marines.

“What makes this year just as historical and unique is the ability for servicemembers to wear their uniforms,” said Sala, who served six years in the Navy.

“Based on Department of Defense policy, there is no ban on members participating in cultural events. This contingent, just as last year is simply honoring servicemembers and their LGBT families,” he said.

“We have once again had people from around the nation sign up for our parade. Last year when we marched, we had 160 signed up and more than 250 marched. This year we have 315 signed up, so we probably will be over 400 this year. It’s just amazing.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta released a videotaped message in June that stressed that troops, no longer bound by DADT restrictions, could be out and proud.

“Before the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself. And now — after repeal, you can be proud of serving your country, and be proud of who you are when in uniform,” Panetta said.

“The promise of America grounded in the Constitution, contained in our Pledge of Allegiance, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty and enunciated by generations of our nation’s leaders is that America stands for liberty, for justice, for equality for all. This has been America’s Pride,” said Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride.

“We look forward to a fun, fantastic celebration here in San Diego of the advances in LGBT equality from the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We are excited about fusing the fundamental values of LGBT Pride with ideals of American Pride,” he said. “We welcome everyone across this country to join us in San Diego for a celebration of America’s Pride and to help us focus attention and raise awareness of the need for our nation to fulfill its promise of ‘liberty and justice for all.’”

Servicemembers planning to walk in the military contingent can register HERE. Registration guarantees a spot in the military contingent. Parade organizers would prefer that everyone put on their military uniform and march with Pride.

An informational meeting for the military contingent will be held at 6:30 pm Thursday, July 19, at Bourbon Street Bar & Grill, 4612 Park Blvd., San Diego. This will be a 21-and-older event.

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.