Senior Pentagon officials are refusing to formally acknowledge LGBTQ Pride Month celebrations for the first time since 2012, the year after the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was repealed.
Each year, at the start of June, an official Pentagon memo would be distributed effectively endorsing its observance and encouraging personnel to hold local events, as it does with other holidays and heritage months. This year broke that tradition, as no memo was produced or distributed.
The decision not to issue a memo comes amid the Trump administration’s continued efforts to ban transgender soldiers from serving, which was first announced by Trump via Twitter last July.
“It opens the door for LGBT service members, civilians and their allies on military bases to hold events recognizing Pride Month without having to ask for special permission or an exception,” a former senior Obama administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post of the purpose of the previous memos. “It makes it known that there’s an authorization, that there’s support.”
DoD Pride, the LGBTQ employee group at the Defense Department, held an event on Monday at the Pentagon regardless, but unlike in all previous years beginning in 2012, no high-level department leaders made public remarks. Democratic congressman Rep. Anthony G. Brown headlined the event instead.
I firmly believe the right to defend our nation should not be denied to any American. But throughout our history the military has struggled to accept the service of women, African Americans & LGBT community pic.twitter.com/cBbU0ZqDU4
— Anthony G. Brown (@RepAnthonyBrown) June 11, 2018
“The Department of Defense supports diversity of all kinds across our military and we encourage everyone to celebrate the diversity of our total force team,” said Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, who declined comment on why there was no official declaration this year. “We value all members of the DOD total force and recognize their immense contributions to the mission.”
The Defense Department Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity’s website publicizing posters and memos designating 2018’s official observances lists Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Holocaust Days of Remembrance, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The materials marking those observations have also been distributed, yet there remains no Pride Month poster or memo as of Tuesday.
Instead, DoD Pride was left to create its own poster.
Trump’s transgender military ban continues to work its way through the courts, but in the meantime a policy has been approved. It follows recommendations delivered by Defense Secretary James Mattis, that keeps most trans soldiers out of the armed services.
The new policy, unveiled in April, prohibits those with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, or requiring transition-related medication or surgery, from military service “except under certain limited circumstances.”
Trump also failed to issue a Pride Month proclamation for the second year in a row, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did issue a celebratory statement.