The Department of Defense's lack of an acknowledgment of June as Pride Month has caused a number of Democratic congressmen and women to draft a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis demanding an explanation, according to a press release from the office of Congressman Anthony Brown of Maryland.
The DOD has made a tradition of recognizing Pride Month for the past seven years, since the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in 2011. The recognition has been accompanied by an official Pride event each June, planned by the Department of Defense's Association of LGBT Employees and Allies and featuring high-ranked officials in the DOD, CNN reported.
In the past, an official memo has been sent out in recognition of June as Pride Month. This will mark the first year since the repeal of DADT in 2011 that the event was held without an official endorsement from the DOD, saw the attendance of no senior leadership, and lacked an official poster designed by the Pentagon's design office.
The Pentagon's Personnel and Readiness Office, the office usually tasked with sending out the memo that officially endorses June as Pride month, is run by Robert Wilkie, who is currently nominated to be the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Brown spearheaded the letter on Friday that demanded an answer as to why the DOD went against precedent and failed to acknowledge June as Pride Month. Brown was accompanied by a number of other Democratic members of the House of Representatives, including Robert Brady of Pennsylvania; Susan Davis, Salud, Carbajal, and Jackie Speier of California; Beto O'Rourke of Texas; Donald Norcross of New Jersey; and Ruben Gallego of Arizona.
The letter demanded explanations on several fronts, not only concerned with the reasoning behind a lack of endorsement, but inquiring about the "office, agency, or persons" tasked with determining when the DOD will issue memos "celebrating or highlighting cultural groups and achievements."
The letter also inquired about the extent to which Wilkie impacted the decision not to issue a memo recognizing Pride month, and expressed the signatories' discontent with the lack of leadership at the Pride event, demanding an explanation regarding why no leadership made the decision to attend.
"The absence of demonstrative support from DOD leadership at events like these can have the effect of isolating our LGBT service members and employees," said the Members of Congress in the letter. "The Department of Defense cannot and must not retreat when it comes to ensuring Americans' ability to share in our country's promise, nor when it comes to truly living up to our founding ideals."
The Democratic representatives' concern regarding the lack of acknowledgment for LGBT rights in the DOD occurs in the wake of the Trump administration's attack on trans servicemembers. Last July, Donald Trump announced that he would make an effort to re-implement the ban on most transgender individuals serving in the military, which was repealed in 2016.
"Today, LGBT Americans are defending our nation all over the world," the letter said, accompanied by hopes that the military "remains strong and diverse."