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Inside Politics: Panetta asked why uniforms allowed in gay pride parade

- - Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Congressional Republicans challenged Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Tuesday to explain why the Defense Department allowed active-duty troops to wear their uniforms while marching in San Diego's gay pride parade last weekend.

In a letter to Mr. Panetta, Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma said department rules bar service members from participating in political activities while in uniform and pressed Mr. Panetta on why a waiver was granted, who requested it and why it was considered over others.

Mr. Inhofe, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, also pointed out that administrative action has been taken against service members who have violated the rule.

"If the Navy can punish a chaplain for participating in a pro-life event or a Marine participating in a political rally, it stands to reason that the Defense Department should maintain the same standard and preclude service members in uniform from marching in a gay pride parade," Mr. Inhofe wrote.

In a statement accompanying the letter, Mr. Inhofe said he was concerned that the Obama administration "continues to force its liberal social agenda on the military by promoting the homosexual agenda, mandating the use of high-cost green energy initiatives, pursuing abortion rights and suppressing the free exercise of religious liberties."

On Saturday, dozens of soldiers, sailors and Marines in uniform marched alongside an old Army truck with a "Freedom to Serve" banner and a rainbow flag. Dozens of military personnel in civilian clothes joined them.

The Pentagon had advised all its branches that it was making an exception for the San Diego parade even though its policy prohibits service members from marching in uniform in political parades. The department said it made the exception because organizers had encouraged military personnel to march in their uniform and the event was getting national attention.

The waiver only applied to this year's parade in San Diego.

CONGRESS

Democrats' call for gun control rebuffed

A handful of Democrats are calling for a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips after the movie-theater shooting rampage in Colorado, but House and Senate leaders of both parties have no plans to touch the issue this election year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with House Speaker John A. Boehner, told reporters Tuesday that there should be no push for tighter gun control. They say the shooting should not be politicized and that there's little time left in the polarized Congress to tackle the issue. Still, four Democrats — Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, and Reps. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York say the shooting is only the latest evidence that the clips should be banned.

WHITE HOUSE

Standoff could increase families' taxes by $1,600

The White House says a standoff with Congress that results in the January expiration of wide-ranging tax cuts would mean 114 million families would see average tax increases of $1,600 next year.

The figures put a price tag on the potential personal costs of the partisan tax showdown.

Republicans want to renew all the tax cuts for one year to give the two sides time to negotiate permanent tax changes. President Obama and Democrats insist they will only extend the reductions for households earning below $250,000.

Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, has said if there is no deal by January, her party would be willing to let all the tax cuts expire to pressure Republicans to give ground.

The $1,600 average is for families earning $250,000 or less.

OHIO

Lawmaker returns donations caught up in FBI probe

WADSWORTH — An Ohio congressman has returned $100,000 in campaign contributions amid an FBI inquiry into the source of the donations.

The FBI has previously questioned employees of Canton-based Suarez Corp. Industries about combined donations to freshman U.S. Rep. James Renacci and state treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel, both Republicans.

Mr. Renacci said in a statement Monday that he is returning 20 checks for $5,000 each.

Mr. Renacci faces a challenge from Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton, whose district was reconfigured as a result of redistricting.

Mr. Mandel returned $105,000 in questioned contributions in May.

The government had been seeking donor records for retail marketing executive Benjamin Suarez, his family members and employees to either the congressman or Mr. Mandel.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports