Roughly 200 active-duty and retired U.S. service members marched in the San Diego gay pride parade Saturday, marking the first time in the parade’s history that a military contingent took part.
The service members were not dressed in uniform. Instead, they wore T-shirts to indicate which branch of the military they were affiliated with. Each branch of service was represented.
“This is a dream come true,” retired Marine Capt. Kristen Kavanaugh told CNN affiliate KGTV.
“It’s the beginning of something where we can be proud about who we are and about the job that we’re doing to help this nation.”
The march took place one day after a federal appeals court temporarily reinstated the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving in the military, but prohibited the services from investigating or discharging anyone under the rule.
The 9th U.S. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in California issued the order late Friday after the administration of President Barack Obama asked it to reconsider its recent order temporarily blocking the policy.
U.S. officials have been moving ahead with dismantling “don’t’ ask, don’t tell” but objected to having the courts force the government to officially repeal it at this time.
“As we’re coming to such a close end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ I think the timing maybe just worked out well,” said Frank Sabatini Jr., media coordinator for San Diego LGBT Pride, which organizes the parade, about the military contingent.
He said Saturday marked the first time in the parade’s 37-year history that service members took part as an organized group.
“As soon as they turned onto that parade route … arms all over the place went up and you heard a roaring applause,” said Sabatini.
Video broadcast by CNN affiliate KFMB showed parade-goers waving American and rainbow flags as onlookers cheered.
“So many people are fighting for freedom and fighting for rights and they don’t have those rights themselves,” Staff Sgt. Jose Navarro told KFMB.
“I think it’s just the honorable thing to do — to allow them to be open and live for the freedom that they’re willing to die for.”