(WB) Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to deliver the keynote address for an upcoming event at the Pentagon recognizing Pride Month, the Washington Blade has learned.
The event, which is scheduled to take place in the Pentagon auditorium on June 9, is coordinated by DOD Pride, the affinity group for LGBT civilian and military employees at the Defense Department.
A defense official familiar with the event said Austin will deliver the keynote address at the event. Lisa Lawrence, a Pentagon spokesperson, confirmed via email to the Washington Blade the secretary will be there.
Austin’s name appears as an attendee on an advance copy of the announcement for the event obtained by the Washington Blade, which also indicates the theme for this year’s event is “Respect, Dignity, and Service.” The event will be closed to the press due to coronavirus restrictions, the announcement says.
“This event is held each June during National Pride Month to celebrate the contributions LGBT service members and civilians make to our national security each and every day,” the announcement says. “Events like these are crucial to ensuring continued LGBT visibility as we continue to work toward greater equality in the workplace.”
DOD Pride has continually held official events at the Pentagon recognizing Pride Month every year beginning in 2012 since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was certified, with the exception of last year when the event was nixed at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Austin’s appearance at the event resumes the practice of the defense secretary taking part in the event to recognize Pride Month after the officials in that role during the Trump administration had ignored it. Although the event continued during the first three years of the Trump administration, other senior officials attended other than the defense secretary.
In the Obama years, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made a video for the event and former defense secretaries Chuck Hagel and Ashton Carter made live appearances.
Austin’s appearance at the event is also significant because it comes after the Pentagon has fully reversed President Trump’s transgender military ban, which had hung over the Pride events as a cloud during the previous administration. The event also takes place after the Pentagon for the first time enacted a policy allowing transgender people to enlist in the armed forces, which was planned but never implemented during the Obama administration.
Other attendees listed on the advance copy of the announcement for the event are Major Gen. Leah Lauderback, director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the headquarters of the U.S. Space Force; and Lt. Kris Moore of the Surface Warfare Office at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.