The US Marine Corps and Opinions on Homosexuality
The text of the briefs given to US servicemembers on the repeal of the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is publicly available. Notably, it starts out with this phrase:
This brief is NOT an attempt to change anyone’s opinion about the subject of homosexuality. [emphasis original]
Later, the presentation says this:
There Is No Expectation To Change Religious or Moral Views: Soldiers will not be expected to change their personal views and religious beliefs. They must, however, continue to treat all Soldiers with dignity and respect. [formatting original]
With that in mind, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, SgtMaj Michael Barrett, toured bases in the Pacific with the Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Amos in June. Addressing DADT, Barrett said:
“Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is pretty simple,” he told a group of Marines at a base in South Korea. “It says, ‘Raise an army.’ It says absolutely nothing about race, color, creed, sexual orientation.
“You all joined for a reason: to serve,” he continued. “To protect our nation, right?”
The Marines dutifully replied:
“Yes, sergeant major,” Marines replied.
SgtMaj Barrett continued:
“How dare we, then, exclude a group of people who want to do the same thing you do right now, something that is honorable and noble?” Sgt. Maj. Barrett continued, raising his voice just a notch. “Right?”
The article does not indicate the Marines’ response.
Despite the SgtMaj’s implication, the US military can – and does — “dare” to “exclude” many groups of people who want to do the same thing as US servicemembers “do right now.” For more than 200 years the US military has demanded the highest standards of moral character from those within its ranks, and for two centuries homosexuality has been one of several deviations from acceptable moral character. (There are others.)
The leadership peptalk from the highest ranking enlisted Marine in the Corps is different than other leadership perspectives to date because the SgtMaj appears to be trying to influence opinions or views on the topic of homosexuality. In line with the training quoted above, the military has said servicemembers must respect each other; it has not said they have to morally agree that homosexuals can openly serve.
The US Marines were categorically the most opposed to repeal, with 67% of all Marines in combat having a negative view of repeal last year. Those Marines just received an interesting response to their views from the highest ranking enlisted person in the Marine Corps.