NAS Jacksonville Hosts First-Ever Gay Pride Event
Since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed a few years back, the military has had to find a way to integrate a newly outed community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members.
On Tuesday, Naval Air Station Jacksonville held its first-ever gay pride event. A Navy spokeswoman says the celebration is first on any Navy base in the southeastern United States.
On a back wall of a cafe on Jacksonville’s Navy base, the American flag hung beside a rainbow flag Tuesday. One of the day’s speakers, Peggy Huddleston, says she’s been serving in the military for 20 years, most of them as a Navy chaplain.
“I stand before you today in awe, excitement and humility that I can talk to you today as a naval officer and a chaplain as an out and open lesbian,” she told a crowd of a couple dozen servicemen and women.
Later, service members, families and friends cut into a special dessert baked by Navy cook Ervin Riddick: a rainbow-colored cake decorated with the logos of all U.S. military branches.
Riddick said, “Before the whole 'don't ask, don't tell' got appealed, I was always worried about what people thought of me in the Navy, but now to be open and happy, it’s a good day. “
Since President Obama signed the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, several other military bases have also hosted similar pride celebrations.