SAN FRANCISCO — Organizers of San Francisco have banned the National Guard from participating in this year’s festival in response to the military’s ban on openly transgender service members, and instead will celebrate a controversial transgender Army private who leaked military secrets as their honorary grand marshal.
The board of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee rejected a request from the Guard to set up an informational booth at Civic Center Plaza during Pride Weekend, reports CBS.
The military’s current ban on transgender service members serving openly, minority recruitment tactics, and sexual assault scandals were factors in the board’s decision, said Pride Executive Director George Ridgely.
Last year, the National Guard had a booth at Pride Weekend for the first time – staffed by gay soldiers – following the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. The Guard was also welcomed at Pride events in Los Angeles and San Diego.
In April, parade officials announced that imprisoned U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning, convicted last year of violating the Espionage Act for releasing classified military documents, was selected as an honorary grand marshal in this year’s pride parade.
Critics of the decision to ban the National Guard over the military’s transgender policy say the the move is short-sighted.
Last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the prohibition on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military “continually should be reviewed.” Although he did not indicate whether he believes the policy should be overturned, Hagel said “every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”
The 44th annual San Francisco Pride Celebration & Parade takes place June 28-29, 2014.