Washington – The U.S. military celebrated gay pride month at the Pentagon for the first time with officials praising the services for smoothly adapting to a law that permits homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces.
“As recently as three years ago, it would have been hard for many of us, including me, to believe that in the year 2012, a gay man or woman in the armed forces could be honest about their sexual orientation,’’ the Pentagon’s top lawyer, Jeh Johnson, said. “How has the military accepted this change? Better than we anticipated,’’ he said. “I attribute this to the strength of our military and its Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard leadership.’’
However, some in the standing-room-only crowd of more than 400 at a Pentagon auditorium expressed concern at the spotty attendance by senior leaders from the different military services, saying it sent the wrong signal. “I’m disappointed that the uniformed leadership didn’t lead on this,” one officer who asked not to be identified said.
“Nobody would be required to come to this thing but I do think it would be a nice gesture. If you want to talk leadership, then lead.’’ The officer said senior uniformed commanders seemed resistant to the gay pride event, even though similar celebrations have been held for years at other agencies, including the CIA, where they have been going on for 12 years. T
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to the gathering in a video message, praising gay and lesbian service members for serving with “professionalism and courage’’ even before the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ law last September. Under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, homosexuals were allowed to serve in the military so long as they did not divulge their sexual orientation.
Johnson told the group the decision to allow homosexuals to serve openly was not a foregone conclusion in 2010, when he and Gen. Carter Ham, then the commander of the U.S. Army in Europe and currently head of U.S. Africa Command, began a lengthy review of the policy.