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Panetta not ordering gay pride events

Observance at Pentagon

- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 24, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is not requiring commands and agencies to hold gay pride events this month, even as the Pentagon prepares for its first celebration on Tuesday of gays serving openly in the ranks.

Mr. Panetta issued a message to troops June 15 recognizing June as Gay Pride Month in the military, after President Obama officially recognized it weeks earlier.

Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel who spearheaded the drive inside the Pentagon to repeal the policy against gays serving openly in the military, will be the keynote speaker at the Pentagon event, which will feature a panel discussion titled "The Value of Open Service and Diversity."

The Pentagon has not released the names of panel members. A gay-rights group said it knows the names, but declined to identify them before the Pentagon does.

Pentagon spokesmen said Mr. Panetta has not directed commands, installations or agencies to hold companion gay pride events during June.

A spot-check of major commands - such as Special Operations Command, Pacific Command and Central Command - revealed that no special events or statements are scheduled. One spokesman said that does not mean an installation will not note the occasion with a statement or exhibit.

Other minorities celebrated

"I'm not aware of any events planned at this point," said a Pacific Command spokeswoman.

Said Army spokesman George Wright: "Aside from the event at the Pentagon for [the Department of Defense], I'm not aware of any organized activities here at Army headquarters, nor at installations."

In the past, celebrations at the Pentagon to recognize minorities have been mirrored by events at bases worldwide.

For example, during Hispanic American Heritage Month in 2001, the Pentagon issued a press release that said: "Celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the observance features a variety of activities on and around military installations worldwide, including keynote speakers, panel discussions, exhibits, films, special menus in military dining facilities and a host of other activities."

During Back History Month in 2006, the command in Afghanistan put on a special event at Bagram Air Base.

Mr. Panetta, who celebrated the end of the ban on service by open gays known as "don't ask, don't tell" in September, took repeal one step further June 15 by having the department embrace June as Gay Pride Month, as does the gay rights movement.

"As we recognize pride month, I want to personally thank all of our gay and lesbian service members, LGBT civilians and their families for their dedicated service to our country," he said in a video message to the troops.

"LGBT" refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Transgenders, who include cross-dressers and transsexuals, remain barred from military service. The gay-rights movement is calling on the Obama administration to remove that exclusion.

"Before the repeal ... you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage," Mr. Panetta said. "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."

Respect and diversity

The gay-rights movement is applauding the recognition.

"This historic declaration confirms the message that the military supports all service members and civilian employees, based on their merit," said Josh Seefried, an Air Force officer who co-directs OutServe.org, a gay-rights group for military personnel.

"This is a tribute to our core military values: respect and integrity. If there is any remaining doubt that the military has executed [the] repeal with excellence, and that LGBT people are serving our country with honor, Secretary Panetta has firmly put that to rest. This is leadership directly from the top."

Asked whether he knows of gay pride events scheduled on bases, Lt. Seefried said: "Various pride events have been happening with participation from different levels. We've chosen to mainly organize them to coincide with pride events at cities, marching in parades, booths, get-togethers."

During the ban, OutServe was a secretive group of gay service members. Since the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal, it works in the open, has established local chapters and organizes a national conference.

Elaine Donnelly, who runs the Center for Military Readiness and opposed the repeal, said that forcing the military to celebrate gays is "entirely inappropriate."

"Now we have a secretary of defense who is forgetting that our military does not exist to promote 'diversity,' as defined by the LGBT Left," she said. "Gay pride events are divisive and entirely inappropriate in the military, an institution that encourages shared values and selfless sacrifice, not separatist factions and pressure groups demanding special status and benefits.

"Pentagon officials should support the majority of men and women in the military, instead of helping President Obama to score political points with the LGBT Left."

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