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Michigan Dept. of Corrections tells officer he cannot wear uniform during pride march

The Michigan Department of Corrections has told corrections officer James Sims that he is not allowed to wear his uniform in Saturday’s gay pride march in Lansing.

Sims, who works at the Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, made the request so he could be identified as a corrections officer while participating in the march with members of the newly formed Michigan Gay Officers Action League (M-GOAL). The group represents LGBT first responders, law enforcement agents and correctional facility officers.

Russ Marlan, spokesman for the department, says the decision was made based on departmental policy. The policy in question reads:

Employees shall wear uniform items only in the performance of their official duties, during travel directly to and from their work site, and, with supervisory approval, when representing the Department in their official capacity. Employees are prohibited from wearing a uniform item which has a Department insignia while in any establishment which serves alcohol on the premises except when representing the Department in their official capacity. Employees shall not purchase or consume alcoholic beverages while wearing a uniform item which has a Department insignia unless approved by the Director at official functions.

Marlan says that only the department’s honor guard is authorized to represent the MDOC in parades. He said it is possible that a request from M-GOAL — the president of which, R Cole Bouck, works as an administrative assistant in MDOC’s Lansing offices — could result in the color guard marching in a pride march or event in the future.

While MDOC is saying no to its employees who want to wear their uniforms in the gay pride event, the City of Lansing has authorized Lansing Police Officers and firefighters to participate in the Michigan Pride March Saturday. Both departments have also authorized the use of vehicles for the march. There will be both gay and straight officers from the City of Lansing participating in the march.

In California earlier this month a corrections officer was denied permission to wear his uniform in a pride march, but the department reversed that decision after a public outcry.

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