Shortly after Dykes on Bikes rumble across the starting line of the Capital Pride parade in Dupont Circle on Saturday, an expected 150,000 spectators should witness something never before seen on an American city street — a U.S. Armed Forces color guard marching alongside rainbow flags in a gay pride parade.
The Department of Defense has authorized what military gay rights groups and organizers of the Capital Pride parade say is a first nationwide — a color guard that will present the red, white and blue as well as flags of each branch of the military.
The eight-member team is scheduled to help lead off the 11 / 2-mile parade, immediately preceding the Capital Pride lead banner and grand marshal Chris Kluwe, a former National Football League punter and the author of the book “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies.”
While no policy has precluded a U.S. Armed Forces color guard from participating in gay rights events since the 2011 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gay rights organizations from D.C. to Hawaii say they have routinely faced rejection from local military offices, saying the color guards were otherwise occupied on the days of pride parades.
Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman, said he could not confirm whether Saturday’s event was a first because decisions about military support for parades are generally made at the local level. Christensen said an Armed Forces color guard did perform on the grounds of the Pentagon last year for a Defense Department pride event, and another performed there again Thursday.
Golojuch said the group had grown tired of rejection and did not bother asking this year.
In D.C., however, the color guard will be provided by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, which presents colors for the president, members of Congress and countless official state functions.
An approval letter sent to pride parade organizers last month listed one caveat to the team’s expected participation Saturday: “Please note this appearance is subject to preemption by the White House or other official military requirements.”
Bernie Delia, president of the board of directors for Capital Pride, said he was thrilled to have the color guard participate. He said members of OutServe and other groups warned Capital Pride officials that they might receive a rejection letter.
“We knew we might get turned down, but we asked and they said yes,” Delia said. “I think that’s very significant.”