John M. Becker

Navy's USS Carl Vinson Blocks LGBT Pride Observance

Filed By John M. Becker | June 16, 2014 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Defense Department, LGBT Pride, military, Navy, open service, Pentagon, Pride Month, protected classes of people, USS Carl Vincent

uss-carl-vinson.jpgThe command leadership of the USS Carl Vinson, a Navy aircraft carrier based in San Diego, have allegedly "shut the door" on sailors' efforts to hold an LGBT Pride Month observance -- even though the Pentagon has encouraged servicemembers to organize them. San Diego LGBT advocate and former sailor Sean Sala tells ABC-10 he's heard from several sailors who are upset:

[Sala] says several sailors have contacted him, frustrated that the command staff was dragging its feet after sailors requested an event observing Pride Month.

Two weeks ago - after Sala made some inquiries - one of the sailors, an officer, said the commanding officer verbally approved a late June event that came with rules in promoting it.v"They were told they had to remove any language of gay or lesbian over the loudspeaker," said Sala...

Team 10 has learned if the sailors are denied an event, they plan to unfurl a rainbow flag on the pier and have an impromptu event.

ABC-10 says that the commanders' stonewalling has prompted one Navy officer to file a formal complaint with the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General. They also say they've obtained emails showing command leadership telling pride organizers to remove the word "transgender" from their posters, even though the acronym "LGBT" and the word "transgender" are both prominently featured on the Defense Department's official Pride Month poster. (The military still bans open transgender service, however.)

But while the alleged anti-LGBT conduct of the command leadership on the USS Carl Vinson is indeed ugly, it's also perfectly permissible under current military regulations. Details, after the jump.

The military does not regard LGBT people as a protected class under its equal opportunity policy, so unlike other groups (e.g. women, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, etc.) -- whose special observances local military installations are strongly encouraged to commemorate -- unit commanders have much wider latitude in deciding whether soldiers under their authority can celebrate Pride Month at all.

Even if an LGBT Pride observance is authorized, the military has designated them "servicemember-coordinated events," meaning that the onus is on individual LGBTs and allies to put something together, rather than on their commanders or designated diversity representative to make sure the observance takes place.

pentagon-pride-flyer.jpgFurther, a military source tells The Bilerico Project that the lack of a protected class designation for LGBT people is a major reason that Pride Month organizers were unable to get a 2014 theme approved by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI). Every other special military observance so far this year has been able to get a theme approved.

This source also says that organizers were specifically forbidden from including the face of any LGBT person on the official Pride Month poster (left), even though many other groups were allowed to show faces on theirs. Even gay rights hero Harvey Milk, who was recently honored on a U.S. postage stamp, was not allowed to be depicted on the poster.

If these allegations are true, the DEOMI's actions violate the spirit of President Obama's LGBT Pride Month proclamation; his administration's stated commitment to equality, justice, and dignity for all LGBT people; and the Defense Department's newly-updated, LGB-inclusive Human Goals Charter, which Secretary Chuck Hagel signed in April.

Even though the military has made great strides in LGBT inclusion since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," it's clear that there's still a lot more work to be done before lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender servicemembers are able to participate fully and equally in our nation's armed forces. It's time for the military to end the ridiculous transgender ban and designate LGBT people as a protected class, so that all of our brave LGBT siblings in uniform can openly and honestly celebrate Pride.

Watch ABC-10 news's report on the controversy aboard the USS Carl Vinson:

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