No Pride: Park Rangers Forbidden to Join Gay Parades in Uniform

The National Park Service (NPS) officially prohibits uniformed employees from public events that could stir up controversy. 

Prohibition of Pride Participation

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Right before the start of Pride month in June, the National Park Service (NPS) prohibits uniformed employees from joining in and participating in events that may not fit the organization’s innocent and “uninvolved” reputation. 

Reminder of “Existing Policies”

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Discovered in internal memos reminding rangers of “existing guidelines”, the NPS bans employees from marching in public events that “could be construed as agency support for a particular issue, position, or political party” while in uniform. 

They Will be Missed

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While the memo was not banning participation in only the Pride events, it saddens many that the rangers will not be joining the police officers, firemen, and military members who march in the Pride parades each year. 

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Especially considering that one of their very own rangers is honored at the Stonewall National Monument, dedicated to what is considered the turning point of the gay right movement. 

NPS  Speaks Up

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An NPS spokesperson spoke out to say that they were only trying to remind officers of the current and pre-existing policy, and did not agree that it was a complete ban on their participation. 

Employees Feel Differently

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Many NPS employees are not happy with the ban, nor do they feel as though their employer has their best interests in mind. 

A Political Statement in and of Itself

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An anonymous employee, who was scared to share their name due to fear of being fired stated, “I see Pride as a key service to the public, and I see stepping away from that as a political statement”. 

A Cowardly Move

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The anonymous employee continued, “I see denying this decades-long tradition as cowardly, and I see it as validating the far-right provocateurs who are trying to push into political discourse whether or not queer people can exist”. 

The Follow-Up Document

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After the internal memo created quite a debate amongst NPS staff, they received an internal Q&A document that did not bring the response they hoped for. 

Being Gay – Identity or Political Issue?

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The Q&A asks, “Isn’t a Pride event more related to identity than a political issue or cause?”. The NPS answered, “When analyzing First Amendment concerns, the courts do not make a distinction between events which celebrate or support an ‘identity’ and events which advocate for a ‘cause.”. 

Parades as Communication?

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Continuing to say, “Parades and similar events are seen as a form of communication, both for the organizers and participants, so participation by uniformed employees would be viewed as communication on behalf of the NPS”. 

Slipping Through the Cracks

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The NPS remains steadfast in their stance that they are not creating a new policy to limit its employees’ rights, but instead are only clarifying policies that seem to have started slipping through the cracks. 

Influx of Employees Asking for Participation 

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Frank Lands, the NPS Deputy Director of Operations, said, “Simply put, no policy has changed,” Lands wrote. “We sent the reminder because more and more employees are now asking to participate in uniform in non-NPS events that support a wide variety of topics and causes”. 

In Need of a Comprehensive Review 

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Lands continued, “Previous interpretations of our uniform policy were inconsistent and did not receive the comprehensive review we are currently working through”. 

Increased Political Hostility

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The NPS crackdown hits hard for many LGBTQ+ employees and supporters as they continue to face a very hostile political climate in 2024. 

This Policy – A Drop in the Political Bucket?

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Many conservative lawmakers across the country seem bent on attacking the civil liberties and rights of the LGBTQ+ community, as over 500 bills have been introduced this year to do just that. 

Threats of Terrorism 

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Pride event organizers find themselves more anxious rather than excited about the celebrations, as the FBI warned them that the events could be a target for terrorist organizations. 

Identity, Not Ideology

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The anonymous NPS employee just wants to know, “How is being queer an issue, position or political party-related thing?’ And we have not gotten any clear answer. It’s an identity, it’s not an ideology, and they are confusing the two greatly”. 

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The post No Pride: Park Rangers Forbidden to Join Gay Parades in Uniform first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

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