July 2011: Editorial

The debate is over. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) has been repealed. The Commandant and the leadership in the Corps are in the phase of training Marines in the inclusion of openly gay individuals into the Corps. I have not personally attended the training, but I have seen the slide show and the CMC and Sergeant Major’s video. You would have to be comatose not to have heard the discussions around the Corps on the impact of this tectonic plate shift in policy.
   
A much more sagacious individual than I put the issue in context. On the one hand you have individuals who firmly believe that allowing openly homosexual individuals to serve in the military is a civil rights issue analogous to the integration of African-Americans into the Armed Services at the end of World War II. On the other hand you have individuals who have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that homosexual conduct is morally wrong, and they reject the analogy of civil rights. There are, of course, individuals all along this spectrum.
   
Underlying all of this is the ethos of the Marine Corps where we proudly trumpet that we do not reflect the values of society and that we hold Marines to a higher standard of conduct. Lurking in the background is another issue—one over which the Corps has no control—gay marriage. In the larger gay community the repeal of DADT has never been about allowing patriotic gay Americans to openly serve their Nation in the Armed Forces without being deceitful. It has been about furthering widespread acceptance of homosexuality as a valid alternative lifestyle.
   
I am told by several individuals who have attended the training sessions that many of the questions asked revolved around benefits, such as housing for gay Marines and their partners. Adding to the debate has been the announcement by the Chief of Chaplains that chaplains could perform gay weddings in base chapels where such unions are legal. After 60 congressmen complained, the Navy rescinded the policy. All of DoD has been hiding behind the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) when queried about the effect of DADT repeal on benefits. The current administration has said that they will not defend DOMA in court as they view it as unconstitutional. I suspect very soon that the legal cloaking device will no longer be available when the tough questions on benefits are asked.
   
We have two articles this month on the repeal of DADT. They are quite different in tenor and tone, but ultimately they recognize that Marines will follow the law. It is not the law, however, that will cause the most discomfort and turmoil. It is the policies that DoD already has and will articulate.
   
The most interesting article on DADT is not in this edition. A major submitted an article on the repeal of DADT and the issues that he believed commanders would have to deal with and suggestions on how to deal with them. When he discussed it with me at length I gave him the following viewpoint. I told him his thesis was woven throughout an insightful and thought-provoking article, but he should put the thesis up front. I opined that his thesis was, “If you cannot accept homosexuality as a valid alternative lifestyle you are unfit for command and incapable of creating an acceptable command climate.” He said, “The Commandant is telling you that.” Is this the message CMC is sending? He did not resubmit the article for publication. I wish he had, I would have published it. I also would like to see an article on the obligations of the gay Marine. If the Corps is going to be inclusive and value its diversity, as the Commandant and Sergeant Major say, then there has to be room for the civil rights advocate and the deeply religious Marine.                                                                              

John Keenan