Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) has joined Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) in condemning the Pentagon for allowing military servicemembers to wear their uniforms in the San Diego Pride Parade last weekend. Like Forbes, Inhofe believes the decision somehow reflects President Obama “forcing its liberal social agenda on the military,” but in his letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, he even argues that the decision is “expressly prohibited by DOD policy”:
Based on the current standing DOD Directive 1344.10 and separate service department regulations, service members “shall not march or ride in a partisan political parade.” These directive and regulations are unambiguous and straight forward with the intent of preserving the military’s apolitical stance. This apolitical stance has served our military well and earned the respect of not just American but nations around the world as being a professional organization, set aside from politics and agendas.
The reversal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” allows U.S. service members to openly serve in our military. However, allowing service members to participate in a gay pride parade, while in uniform, is expressly prohibited by DOD policy… If the Navy can punish a Chaplain for participating in a pro-life event or a Marine participating in a political rally, it stands to reason that DOD should maintain the same standard and preclude service members in uniform from marching in a gay pride parade.
Inhofe clearly (and unsurprisingly) does not even possess the most basic understanding of LGBT Pride. There is nothing inherently partisan or political about a Pride parade — it is a celebration of life and community. Wearing a military uniform in a Pride parade is no more political than wearing one to a heterosexual wedding. That the senator’s only understanding of sexuality and gender is as political issues, rather than as aspects of constituents’ lives and families, is sad.
Though it’s a moot point, if Inhofe believes that LGBT issues are “partisan,” it is certainly not a reflection of the political make-up of the LGBT community. It is the Republican Party itself, through anti-LGBT party platforms and near-uniform opposition to equality, that has drawn such bold dividing lines in the political debate. This, of course, is in spite of the best efforts by groups like the Log Cabin Republicans and outlier equality-supporters like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R).
If Inhofe’s argument isn’t weak enough, the duplicitous example he uses to defend it further deligitimizes it. The Navy has never punished a chaplain for any pro-life activities — the only case Inhofe could be referring to is that of Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who was dismissed for praying “in Jesus’ name.” His participation in an anti-choice event was irrelevant. For what it’s worth, Klingenschmitt is himself a rabid homophobe who has argued that gay demons can infect animals and anti-bullying laws will invite sexual assault into schools.
Claims like those made by Inhofe and Forbes are an obvious attempt to maintain the stigma and invisibility of gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers in the absence of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.