Gates Tells Marines They Can’t Resign over DADT

In an unusual display of public candor (given the current environment on opposition to DADT repeal), a US Marine directly asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates if those with moral opposition to homosexuality could resign:

“Sir, we joined the Marine Corps because the Marine Corps has a set of standards and values that is better than that of the civilian sector. And we have gone and changed those values and repealed the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy,” the sergeant told Gates during the question and answer session.

“We have not given the Marines a chance to decide whether they wish to continue serving under that. Is there going to be an option for those Marines that no longer wish to serve due to the fact their moral values have not changed?” he asked.

Despite Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen’s prior statements that those who disagreed could vote with their feet, Gates had a fairly blunt answer to the enlisted Marine: 

“No,” Gates responded. “You’ll have to complete your…enlistment just like everybody else.”

“The reality is that you don’t all agree with each other on your politics, you don’t agree with each other on your religion, you don’t agree with each other on a lot of things,” he added. “But you still serve together. And you work together. And you look out for each other. And that’s all that matters.”

The Defense Secretary used similar language in defending the change:

“If we do this right, nothing will change,” he said. “You will still have to abide by the same rules of behavior, the same discipline, the same respect for each other that has been the case through all the history of the Marine Corps.”

As the Marine tried to point out, however, something has changed — “the standards and values” of the Marine Corps and the US military as a whole.  Despite repeated attempts at equivalency, such a cultural upheaval has no comparison in politics or religion.


  • One can “vote with one’s feet” by choosing not to re-enlist, by resigning one’s commission or by leaving at the end of one’s active-duty service commitment. This will be particularly easy for chaplains with moral objections, because they can ask their ecclesiastical authorities to withdraw their endorsement, triggering separation from the military.

    As for everyone else — you don’t get to choose whom you work with, plain and simple. That’s true in most facets of civilian life, and it’s particularly true when you’re in the profession of arms.

  • you don’t get to choose whom you work with…

    That’s not entirely true. When was the last time you saw a morbidly obese person in uniform, or had a superior or subordinate who was a convicted violent felon? Base housing is often desirable because people “know” the “type” of person they’re living next to — because the US military discriminates when it recruits.

    The US military has personnel standards, and you know “who you work with” when you join. Unless, of course, the personnel standards change after you’re committed…

  • Being morbidly obese will affect your ability to perform. Being a violent criminal would make you the sort of person not trustworthy to have a gun. Being gay makes you,….. errr… well it means you are attracted to people of the same gender.

  • Phoenix,

    Are you saying that the Marine posing the question is wrong?

    You’re right, I don’t get to choose who I work with. My chain of command decides that, as they have done with DADT, PT status, and criminal background. I didn’t say I agree with all of those decisions because of my standards, but I think you’re judging people who have standards.


    The line is drawn at military effectiveness. We can argue if the repeal is a net gain or loss if you like, but if you are too naive to think that in some way the repeal of DADT is hurting our effectiveness, then you must have the world’s largest emotionally-driven, logic-ignoring thought process I’ve ever seen.

  • This argument will go on and on and on every time some group a vocal minority doesn’t like can serve…Just like racial integration. Just like integration of women. Guess what? the military didn’t end then, and it won’t end now.

    Gates has it right. You don’t get to choose. You follow orders. End of discussion. You don’t like it, well, too bad. Don’t want to serve with gays, well, then don’t re-enlist.

  • @DR
    Yes, the military will follow orders. That does not negate the ability of American citizens to influence what those orders are.

    Homosexuality has no comparison or equivalency with race or gender. Attempts to morally equate them have failed.

  • The majority of Americans think that homosexual relationships are morally acceptable. Bigots are in the minority.

  • JD, I’m going to respectfully disagree because your comment is based on YOUR morality as a conservative Christian. The fact of the matter is that the same arguments can be made regarding all three; disruption of unit cohesion, no matter how you choose to frame your argument. I realize that this is your blog, but your morality does not equate to the state of the law. Men said they wouldn’t serve with minorities, and they did. Men said they wouldn’t serve with women, and they did. The sky didn’t fall, the world didn’t end, and we still have one of the strongest militaries in the world.

    You want to be allowed to preach Leviticus from the pulpit as a minister? I’ll be the first in line to defend your right to say what you want in your role as minister. You want to prohibit chaplains from performing commitment ceremonies? I agree that the law in the area is shaky at best while DOMA is in effect, and the Navy rushed into a decision which required more thought and legal research. You want to be able to counsel people from your own views as a chaplain and send them elsewhere if their views and yours don’t jive? Go for it, I’ll not complain.

    I’m not budging on DADT repeal. The idea that the military will be “less-than” because it allows openly gay or lesbian troops has been proven utterly false by close to thirty militaries around the world, many of which our strong allies of the US. The idea that openly gay or lesbian troops cannot adequately serve in the same capacity as heterosexual ones has been proven false time and time again. The idea that somehow the military is less “moral” is a joke. Marines committing unprovoked criminal assaults and cheating on their wives isn’t a problem, but simply being gay or lesbian is? Really? Enough is enough with the hypocrisy. It’s unbecoming.

  • @DR
    Not sure who you’re arguing with, as much of what you say isn’t even the topic here.

    The “your morality / my morality” premise is flawed on its face. Some said it was immoral to allow homosexuals to openly serve. Some said it was immoral not to. Somebody’s morality was legislated; it is only a matter of whose.

    Your last paragraph raises several straw men but no real arguments. In fact, the comment about Marines committing crimes not being “a problem” is ridiculous. Have you even read this siteat all? You cried hypocrisy based on fiction you created.

  • You state that the military is changing, yet you can’t answer any points except for the fact I missed an article about adultery.

    Your entire premise in posting this, and every other article you’ve posted on DADT, is to prove that somehow our military is going to become something different because we are in the process of integrating openly GLB troops, therefore my points are relevant. I only mention my concerns regarding preaching and counseling and DOMA to lay a foundation for my own beliefs, which is that in some of your posts, you raise valid concerns which I agree with. Clearly you missed that attempt at support because you’re too focused on one sentence.

    You state “discrimination based on gender and race is different from discrimination based on sexual orientation”, based on nothing more than your opinion. When I call you on that and remind you that the military didn’t implode by allowing blacks and women over the objections of the powers that be, you suggest I’m making up arguments. Produce stats or something real to suggest that discrimination against race, gender and sexual orientation is different and maybe we can have a discussion, otherwise, the fact of the matter is that you’re stating your opinion, not fact. Now you want to suggest that someone’s morality is legislated, but the reality is that the military is simply becoming neutral.

    Actually, my last post raises an important argument that you and your ilk refuse to accept. Most of our allies allow gays to openly serve, and yet whenever that fact is raised, and you’re reminded that integration was overall a success, you can’t answer that. Why? Because it’s true. Israel, Great Britain, and numerous other countries have successfully integrated openly gay servicemembers without major incident. It’s ironic that only in America, the supposed land of the free, that the straight folk like you seem to labor under the delusion that somehow allowing GLB folk to serve makes the military “less than”.

    Did I miss and an article on adultery, fine. I only found this blog a few months ago. That doesn’t negate the remainder of my post, and I suggest that my comments about hypocrisy still stand. You won’t even give GLB soldiers the opportunity to prove themselves in the same way you allow heterosexuals. You assume all heterosexuals are qualified to serve unless proven otherwise, but all GLBs are unqualified, regardless of background. That either makes you a hypocrite or a bigot.

  • @DR

    You assume all heterosexuals are qualified to serve unless proven otherwise, but all GLBs are unqualified, regardless of background.

    Again, its difficult to tell who you think you’re arguing with, other than yourself or a straw man.

    No article here has said any such thing. Your quote in the third paragraph doesn’t appear to be from this site. And you continue to attempt to equate homosexuality with race or gender, despite the known failure of that position.

    I am well aware of the attempts to draw parallels between this position [on homosexuality] and positions used years ago to deny opportunities to African-Americans…I can assure you I need no reminders concerning the history of African-Americans in the defense of their Nation and the tribulations they faced. I am a part of that history…

    Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.
    — General Colin Powell, Chairman JCS, 1993

    Convenient. But invalid. And that’s from someone who now supports repeal.

    you want to suggest that someone’s morality is legislated, but the reality is that the military is simply becoming neutral.

    You mean “…simply becoming morally neutral,” which is, of course, your moral perspective. You’ve successfully proven that one man’s immorality is another’s morality; someone’s morality will be legislated.

  • DR,

    You equate sexual preference to gender as if the integration of women to the military was easy and is complete. Neither is true. Personally I feel that women in the military is a good thing, but we have a problem with sexual assault (evidence is the number of sexual assault training classes I’ve gone to in the last 3 years).

    You say other militaries successfully integrated homosexuals. Since most people on the outside would say our military has successfully integrated women, and that isn’t true at all (see above and check integration in SOCOM), I also question reports from other militaries that say they have successfully integrated homosexuals. If you had been reading this blog even for a few months, you would have seen that argument before.

    America is the land of the free, unless you voluntarily give up those rights and join the military. There are many things that I cannot do legally that my dad can do (denigrate the President or governor of the state I’m living in, for example). The military is different than the civilian world.

    On that note, I’m going to express my opinion, but I’ll treat any homosexuals I meet as the professionals I expect them to be, because that is what I swore to do.

  • Not touching a pretty neutral policy was the best thing we could have done in the name of compromise. What the vocal minority of gays and our special interest driven commander in chief want to see is pure ideology. There is no logical benefit if the truth of the military culture is appreciated – only detriment. This is purely driven by the worldly and short sighted allures of political gain.

  • We went through this whole rigamarole when people of color were integrated into the Armed Forces. Christianity needs to get its patriotism up to snuff. This has nothing to do with morality. Gays are as moral as heterosexuals. And according to scientific research Gays are as normal as heterosexuals. Let’s not wait another five hundred years for this truth to be realized by the church. Wake up Christians! This is America, not Judea. It is inevitable.

  • Richard, you’re comparing homosexuality (an action) to skin color (a physical trait).

    I am curious though (and I know a religious based blog may not be the best place to pose such a question), but what about the non-Christians who are against homosexuality? You cannot convince me that over 50% of the population in the states that have passed anti-same-sex legislation is Christian. Which means that there must be non-Christians who have something against homosexuality. Or would you just blanket them all in the term bigots, thus removing any legitimacy in their argument?

  • @end

    Sorry End,

    Homosexuality is not an action it is a physical condition, a state of existence just as heterosexuality is.

    You are correct that Christianity has not been the sole purveyor of anti-gay doctrines and legislation. Christians are, however, the majority in that regard in our heimisphere.

    The vast majority of discrimination against Gays is religion generated. Among those religious beliefs that condemn Homosexuality are the usual suspects who pretty much blindly follow religious folderol with little independent examination of the science and factual information that blows regilious theory on this subject out of the water. There have been many religious targets which I believe is the standard way for religion to build its own importance.

    Religion, Christianity and Islam in specific, is rather a retrograde belief system that harks back to the days of pure superstition and less than intellectually gifted populations. It continues today to enthrall the masses. Karl Marx was amazingly astute in his Communist Manifesto when he stated religion was the opiate of the masses.

    He could not have been more correct. Religion has dulled the senses and intellect of untold millions far better than any barbiturate or narcotic with which I am familiar. So it is no wonder that religion is the leader in world discrimination.

    So although there are other types which readily apply their prejudices for reasons other than religon. religion still leads the pack.

  • You cannot convince me that over 50% of the population in the states that have passed anti-same-sex legislation is Christian.

  • The math says different, Approximatesly 76% of Americans identify themselves as “Christian,” so in any venue in which anti-Gay legislatyion was passed, it would appear that the population index would confirm that at least 50% of those in districts where Christianity is in such a high majority would be Christian.

  • DADT is repealed! This is great news, and if you think anything has changed, you’re right. We now have ONE set of rules for everyone–not two. And, we don’t require people to LIE.

    Get over your bigotry.

  • @Richard

    according to scientific research Gays are as normal as heterosexuals

    Care to provide a link to the scientific definition of “normal?”


    And, we don’t require people to LIE.

    Using your own implied definition, your statement is untrue. Every person who joins the military while hiding their disqualification for doing so, and every military member who becomes disqualified and yet hides that fact, is, by your definition, lying.

    Does their “integrity” demand that we change the rules? Such a basis for a standard is ludicrous.

    A grad student at MIT wrote “The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage” in 2004.

  • So, a student wrote a bad essay, based on a faulty premise and with only one reference that does not actually defend his claim, and you expect people to take that seriously?

  • @Donalbain

    and you expect…

    Any expectation you perceived was your own.

  • @JD
    JD, you can be obtuse when it suits you. By normal you know I mean the NORM. Heterosexualityy is the norm, Homosexuality is the norm, etc. This is no different than saying hetero sexual women are the norm or hoosexual womn are the norm.