Credit: NPS

National Park Employees Can 'Participate in Uniform' During Pride Events

The Secretary of Interior told employees of the National Park Service and other agencies that it’s ok to wear uniforms during Pride events.

In what seemed like a rapid change in policy, the Secretary of Interior issued a memo last week to employees of the National Park Service and other agencies saying that it's ok to wear uniforms during Pride events. Although Secretary Deb Haaland didn't specifically say Pride, the timing of the memo suggests that's what it was about.

In the memo, which Wide Open Spaces obtained a copy, Haaland clarified the Department of Interior's policy on participating in cultural and social events while in uniform. She said employees can "participate in uniform representing their respective bureau" during events organized around Special Emphasis Programs, or SEPs.

According to the department's website, SEPs are federally recognized and designed to promote and foster diversity within the workplace. In addition to Pride, they include events like Juneteenth, Women's Equality Day, National American Indian Heritage Month, and others.

Haaland explained organized events "could include marching units in parades, booths at parades, events" and more. She added that policy for the 11 bureaus in her department — including the Fish & Wildlife Service, the Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service — must be consistent.

Why the policy needed clarification

According to reports, the brouhaha began on May 9 after officials with the Park Service tried to provide guidance following an influx of staff requests asking to participate in events and wear materials supporting Pride. The guidance included a memo as well as a Q&A discussing a range of issues. However, the materials did more harm than good as multiple employees expressed frustration and concern.

Many believed the guidance singled out Pride Month as it begins June 1 and runs until the end of the month. In the past, the LGBTQ community viewed the Park Service as an ally of because it maintains the Stonewall National Monument, which is a symbol of LGBTQ rights. And many believed the memo to mean that the Park Service was departing from established policy.

In memos issued earlier this month, the department asked employees to refrain from participating in events outside of their agencies while in uniform. The concern was that the public could view their participation "as agency support for a particular issue, position, or political party."