WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – Secretary of Defense Ash Carter yesterday kicked off the defense department's "Pride Month," an annual recognition of gay, lesbian and transgender members of the military created after President Obama lifted the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in 2011.
In a ceremony that included openly gay Brig. Gen. Randy Taylor and his husband, Lucas, Carter said the Pentagon took pride in how gay and lesbian members of the military are now "free to serve their country openly."
"We believe in getting to a place where no one serves in silence, and where we treat all our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines with the dignity, and the respect, that they deserve," Carter said. "Looking back, gays and lesbians have long defended our country in uniform – and there are thousands of stories that illustrate their willingness to serve, and to sacrifice."
Carter cited the example multiple service members who had been killed or wounded in combat and who were gay or lesbian. One of those was 20-year-old Army Green Beret Lloyd Darling, killed in 1968 while defending his teammates during a firefight with the North Vietnamese Army.
"The Department of Defense has made a lasting commitment to living the values we defend – to treating everyone equally – because we need to be a meritocracy. We have to focus relentlessly on our mission, which means the thing that matters most about a person is what they can contribute to national defense," Carter said.
Carter said the military recently completed updates to its equal opportunity policy to include protections based on sexual orientation, "ensuring that the department, like the rest of the federal government, treats sexual-orientation-based discrimination the same way it treats discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, age, and national origin."
According to Carter, excluding homosexuals from service is "bad defense policy" that weakens the military.
In February, Carter also announced the appointment of Eric Fanning to the position of chief of staff. Fanning, formerly the acting Secretary of the Air Force, is openly gay. Fanning has never served in uniform and is a former public relations executive and was a White House staffer during the Clinton administration.
Openly homosexual relationships were once frowned upon in the military and regarded as "conduct unbecoming" a service member. During his administration, President Bill Clinton enacted a policy called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" – gay service members were allowed to serve assuming they did not disclose their practices.
In 2011, the Department of Defense repealed the policy, then citing that the department was committed "to promoting an environment free from personal, social, or institutional barriers that prevent Service members from rising to the highest level of responsibility possible regardless of sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian Service members, like all Service members, shall be evaluated only on individual merit, fitness, and capability."
Why, then, is it necessary to promote "gay pride?" Carter said at the ceremony kicking off "Pride Month" that embracing diversity and inclusion is critical to mission success in recruiting and retaining soldiers.
He said young people today are "more diverse, open, and tolerant than past generations," and to attract talent the military must be more open and tolerant. Carter said he believes "it's the only way to compete in the 21st century."
Since the ban on openly homosexual service members was lifted by President Obama, the military has experienced its fair share of gay pride events and celebrations.
In 2013, a gay West Point cadet was praised in social media for taking his boyfriend to the academy's winter formal. A group of West Point cadets also launched Knights Out, a Facebook page supporting gay and lesbian cadets at the school.
In 2014, a group of gay and lesbian service members performed in drag at Kadena Air Base Okinawa to raise money for an organization that supports gay, lesbian and transgender service members. That organization, OutServe-SLDN, is the largest non-profit group for the military's LGBT members.
Last week, the U.S. Air Force signaled it would soon allow its personnel to serve openly as transgenders. According to the Air Force Times, airman with "gender dysphoria" or who identify as transgender will not be discharged unless those discharges are approved by "a higher authority."
The Pentagon's "Pride Month" ceremony also included Power Point presentations, gay pride posters, and the singing of the National Anthem by the Rock Creek Singers, part of the "Gay Men's Chorus."
In 2013, retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady told World Net Daily President Obama was intent on "emasculating the military" and purging it of officers who disagreed with his policy on the open service of homosexuals and women in frontline combat units. Brady is a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for bravery in combat.