Pentagon marks gay pride month for first time

Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:07pm EDT
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By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military celebrated gay pride month at the Pentagon for the first time on Tuesday, 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 in a keynote address.

"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," said one officer who asked not to be identified. "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 to 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.

The service leaders appeared to be conducting a "sort of silent protest," the officer said. "There's got to be. Nobody from the services' senior staff? No one?"

PANETTA'S PRIDE   Continued...