Charged with one of the largest leaks of classified documents in history, U.S. Army private Bradley Manning, is set to be acknowledged at San Francisco’s annual gay rights parade. Naming Manning as a Grand Marshall of the parade, a role that is annually filled by activists, politicians and celebrities who have made significant achievements for the LGBT community, has drawn fire from multiple groups that represent the LGBT Service Members.
Being openly gay, Manning’s lawyers argue that his actions of leaking classified information to the website Wikileaks were in part caused by his experience as a gay Soldier before the repeal of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.”
“As a longstanding Manning supporter, I’m thrilled to see our community publicly embrace his courage in disclosing classified truths about the war in Iraq and other facts, which empower the American public to promote smarter future policy,” said Rainey Reitman, a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
While those who believe that Manning was in the right for his actions will see this recognition as a milestone in the movement for his support, this leave a bad taste in the mouth for many towards the LGBT community; this is the case for Stephen Peters, the president of American Military Partners Association, an advocate group for gay and lesbian military families.
“The LGBT military community is outraged by this decision and we genuinely hope that San Francisco Pride will reconsider their appointment of Bradley Manning as a grand marshal for this year’s celebration. No community of such a strong and resilient people should be represented by the treacherous acts that define Bradley Manning,” said Peters.
Regardless of whether or not Manning will be kept on ticket as a Grand Marshall of the pride parade, his nomination to that position was one of symbolic gesture. Under normal circumstances, the Grand Marshalls of the parade ride by in convertibles, waving to the crowds and reviewing parties, but whether or not San Francisco Pride decides to keep him as such, he will not be in attendance due to the fact that he is currently residing in a comfortable cell in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as he waits for his court martial trial.
UPDATE- Since I had written this there has been an update and it looks like Manning will NOT be the Grand Marshall now. Due to the heavy amount of criticism facing their decision to honor PVT. Manning as a Grand Marshall at the gay pride parade on June 30, those at SF Pride have decided to drop Manning.
SF Pride Board President Lisa Williams was quoted in a statement saying that “an employee of the organization had prematurely notified Bradley Manning this week that he had been selected for this honor. ”
“That was an error, and that person has been disciplined. He does not now, nor did he at that time, speak for SF Pride,” Williams said.
A committee of former San Francisco Pride grand marshals did select the openly-gay Manning, to honor him, but the Pride Board decided his nomination would be a mistake, Williams said.