Military march in show of pride

Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014
Fairfax NZ

Defence Force leaders to "walk the talk" of equality by marching with gay and lesbian colleagues.

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Amongst the fun and glam of this year's Pride parade, set to take over Auckland's Ponsonby Rd this weekend, uniformed military personnel will be marching to show support for their gay and lesbian colleagues.

The Defence Force contingent of about 70 personnel includes leaders and would be a mix of gay and straight staff.

Among them would be soldier Hemi Frires, who said participating in the march would be a proud moment in his career.

"It shows off the Defence Force as an equitable employer and shows the support of the full command chain for our personnel," Frires said.

"It's important to me as an individual because it is a celebration of how far we've come as an organisation. Now we have a great open service and support policy in place."

Coming out in the Defence Force was not an easy personal moment for Frires, who was secretary at Overwatch, a support group for GLBTIQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning) personnel.

But the Tauranga man said the Defence Force was supportive and he had always been treated just like anyone else.

Assistant chief personnel Brigadier Howie Duffy would march in the parade.

It was important for the Defence Force to "walk the talk,'' Duffy said.

''Last year was the first time and it was a milestone.

"I think it's important to do that as leaders... to show that we value all people in our Defence Force."

For straight and gay personnel to march alongside each other with their leadership in uniform was one small way to send the message that all personnel were valued equally, Duffy said.

The parade, themed around the concept of "time," would travel north on Ponsonby Rd from Western Park to Three Lamps, beginning at 7pm.

Ponsonby Rd would be closed to traffic from 4pm until 10pm and there would be parking restrictions.

The liquor ban in Ponsonby Rd would be enforced.

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