Dutch military joins Gay Pride parade for 1st time

The parade capped a weeklong festival of around 300 parties and events.

Amsterdam: Embracing a policy of "Do Tell," the
Dutch military joined Amsterdam`s annual Gay Pride parade for
the first time this year, with uniformed men and women
saluting the crowds from a boat chugging through a historic
city canal.

A balloon-festooned barge bearing the standards of the
service branches and sponsored by the Defence Ministry sailed
among about 80 other floats, with music blaring from most of
them and dancers dressed in flamboyant costumes or very little
at all.

The parade, watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators
lining the Prinsengracht canal, capped a weeklong festival of
around 300 parties and events.

It included the popular "Drag Queen Olympics" with
contests like the stiletto race and the long-distance handbag
US and British activists sailed with Dutch generals and
other senior officers some gay and others showing solidarity
among some 80 military and ministry civilian personnel.

Unlike the US military, gays have openly served in Dutch
units since 1974, and for 25 years have had a department
within the ministry that minds their interests, the Foundation
for Homosexuals in the Armed Forces.

Still, gay servicemen say having their own presentation in
the famed floating parade marked "a huge step forward" in a
country already noted for sexual equality.

The foundation had been denied permission for several
years to join the event, although in the last two years
soldiers were allowed to participate in military dress on
other boats.

"The political leaders thought it was not appropriate to
wear a uniform at this kind of parade," said army Major Peter
Kees Hamstra, a foundation spokesman.

"This shows everyone that the climate is changing," he

Hamstra said 6 to 8 percent of the Dutch military are gay
or lesbian about the same as in the general population.

"It`s so amazing to be here. This country got it right,"
said former US Army Lt Dan Choi, who was discharged last year
after violating the "don`t ask, don`t tell" policy. Choi
applied to re-enlist after President Barack Obama signed a law
last month repealing the ban.

"I intend to go back to the Army, in whatever capacity
they most need," he told a news agency.

But he`d like to be in the Army Reserve so that he can
continue developing his new role as a gay-rights activist.


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