Dems demand answers on Pentagon not recognizing Pride Month

Dems demand answers on Pentagon not recognizing Pride Month
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A group of House Armed Services Committee Democrats is demanding answers from the Pentagon on why it is “backing away” from its annual Pride celebration.

“We write to express our concern that Pentagon leadership is backing away from supporting and celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) service members and Department of Defense (DoD) employees,” the eight Democrats wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report Mattis urges people to wear masks in PSA about 'nasty little virus' Dozens of GOP ex-national security officials to form group to back Biden: report MORE. “The fight for dignity and inclusion for LGBT individuals in our Armed Forces should remain a steadfast priority for the Department of Defense.”

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The letter was organized by Rep. Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownHouse panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House Armed Services votes to make Pentagon rename Confederate-named bases in a year Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE (D-Md.).

This year, for the first time since the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Pentagon did not issue a memo officially recognizing June as Pride Month. Without the official recognition, the Pentagon’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity did not issue posters and other materials to mark the occasion as it has done in the past.

The Pentagon’s LGBT employee group did hold its annual celebration earlier this month. No senior official was on stage, though Army Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey and Vee Penrod, acting secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, attended.

The low-key celebration came as the Trump administration’s attempt to ban transgender service members continues to be fought in court.

In their letter, the Democrats ask Mattis why the Pentagon’s Personnel and Readiness Office did not issue a memo for Pride Month and why no Pentagon leadership spoke during the Pride event.

The lawmakers also zeroed in on Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness who has been nominated to become Veteran Affairs secretary. A Washington Post story this week described his history of defending his controversial bosses, including those who maligned gay people.

Wilkie at his confirmation hearing this week said he would “absolutely” commit to serving all veterans regardless of race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

In their letter, the Democrats asked Mattis what role, if any, Wilkie played in the decision to not recognize Pride Month.

“The absence of demonstrative support from DOD leadership at events like these can have the effect of isolating our LGBT service members and employees,” they wrote. “The Department of Defense cannot and must not retreat when it comes to ensuring Americans’ ability to share in our country’s promise, nor when it comes to truly living up to our founding ideals.”

The letter was co-signed by Democratic Reps. Robert Brady (Pa.), Susan DavisSusan Carol DavisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Warren announces slate of endorsements including Wendy Davis and Cornyn challenger Hegar MORE (Calif.), Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierProtests force military reckoning on race Air Force documents acknowledged 'persistent' racial bias in justice system HHS watchdog says actions should be free from political interference MORE (Calif.), Beto O’Rourke (Texas), Donald NorcrossDonald W. NorcrossNY, NJ lawmakers call for more aid to help fight coronavirus Lawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins MORE (N.J.), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoHouse panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - As virus concerns grow, can it get worse for Trump? Latino man's death in Tucson fuels debate over police brutality on Hispanics MORE (Ariz.) and Salud CarbajalSalud CarbajalFederal employees push for COVID-19 protections in 'dangerous' workplaces Hispanic Caucus demands protections for agricultural workers in next coronavirus bill Activists, analysts demand Congress consider immigrants in coronavirus package MORE (Calif.).