US allows uniformed soldiers to march for gay pride

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon will allow uniformed military personnel to march in a gay pride parade this weekend, reflecting the tectonic shift in an institution that long banned openly gay service members.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Rene Bardorf said in an internal memo Thursday that soldiers could march in an individual capacity in the San Diego Pride Parade in California on Saturday.

Soldiers are prohibited from taking part in parades that further political activities or commercial interests, and must defer to the judgment of local commanders when it comes to determining which actions are appropriate.

The Pentagon itself celebrated gay pride for the first time in a modest but emotional ceremony last month, less than a year after the US military officially lifted a ban on homosexuals serving openly in the armed forces.

The military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy came to an end last September after nearly two decades, marking a milestone in the quest for gay rights.

An estimated 14,000 troops were expelled from the force under the law, which had been in place since 1993.

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