Members of local chapters of Veterans for Peace, a national anti-war organization that also works for expanded rights for veterans, will march for the first time in Philadelphi’s Pride parade.
VFP’s Philadelphia and South Jersey chapters, as well as the Delaware Valley Veterans for America, will join the dozens of other organizations represented in the 21st annual parade, which begins at 13th and Locust streets at noon June 14.
Robert Dennen, a member of the Philadelphia VFP chapter, said the organizations’ involvement has a multi-faceted purpose.
“Our main message is that we worked for the Constitution, let the Constitution work for us too; gay vets fought for our country and helped back our Constitution, so the Constitution needs to start backing gay vets too,” Dennen said.
He added the groups will also use their status as veterans to bring recognition to such issues as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military’s policy banning openly gay servicemembers, as well as marriage equality — issues that impact LGBT individuals during and after military service.
“We say, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no; gay marriage, yes. We can’t just cover ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ because that’s relative just to when someone’s in the service, but we also look at what happens when you leave the service,” Dennen said. “Some vets are openly gay and others keep their mouths shut about it, but either way we need marriage so we can all have equal benefits just like other vets.”
VFP chapters in New York City and California have also marched in local Pride parades, demonstrating for the same causes Dennen outlined.
The local member doesn’t know exactly how many of his fellow vets will participate in the parade, he’s encountered a positive response.
“I’ve been getting all kinds of e-mails. It’s spreading like wildfire. We’re very organized and have been getting the word out to let people know how historic of an event this will be for Philadelphia.”
Dennen said his organization’s involvement in the parade will help provide needed visibility to the gay-veteran community.
“It seems like there’s a lot of silence with gay veterans who are afraid to speak out that they are vets and that they’re gay, so it’s about time that we brought this discussion out in the open.”