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Armed forces color guard's participation in gay pride parade may be a 1st

| Friday, June 6, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Shortly after Dykes on Bikes rumble across the starting line of the Capital Pride parade in downtown Washington on Saturday, an expected 150,000 spectators should witness something never before seen on an American city street — an armed forces color guard marching alongside rainbow flags in a gay pride parade.

The Department of Defense has authorized what military gay rights groups and organizers of the Capital Pride parade say is a first nationally: a color guard that will present the red, white and blue as well as flags of each branch of the military.

The eight-member team is scheduled to help lead off the 1 12-mile parade, immediately preceding the Capital Pride lead banner and grand marshal Chris Kluwe, the former NFL punter and author of the book “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies.”

While no policy has precluded an armed forces color guard from participating in gay rights events since the 2011 repeal of “Don't Ask Don't Tell,” gay rights organizations from Washington to Hawaii say they have been rejected routinely by local military offices, saying the color guards were otherwise occupied on the days of pride parades.

Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Department of Defense spokesman, said he could not confirm whether Saturday's event was a first because decisions about military support for parades are generally made at the local level. Christensen said an armed forces color guard performed on the grounds of the Pentagon last year for a Department of Defense pride event.

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