Eager to find new
recruits, the British army said Friday that it will
take part in Manchester's gay pride festival this weekend.
The army will staff a recruitment table at the
festival, which is billed as one of the United
Kingdom's biggest gay pride events, and 10 soldiers
will march in uniform in the parade Saturday with a
mix of gay men, lesbians, transvestites, and
transsexuals. "I think it's great the army is coming,"
said festival director Claire Turner. "They're showing
that they welcome gay people and the army is something gay
people can be interested in."
Lt. Col. Leanda Pitt, who commands recruiting
efforts for the army in and around Manchester, said
the parade was an opportunity to try and find new
personnel. "As far as the army is concerned, sexual
orientation is a private matter, and we are intending
to promote the benefits a career in the army can
bring," Pitt said. "Over the three days we will be
able to reach a large audience and also enjoy the atmosphere
that the festival brings to the city."
The festival, which began Friday and ends
Sunday, is expected to draw 45,000 people.
The British government lifted a ban on gays
serving in the country's armed forces in 2000 after
the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the
restriction was a violation of human rights. The British
soldiers will be joined by their peers in the Royal
Air Force, organizers said. Twenty RAF personnel will
attend and have a float in the parade featuring the
cockpit of a plane. (AP)