Gen. James F. Amos and Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent have released a video about the implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in which Amos, who is commandant of the Marine Corps and who spoke out publicly against the law’s repeal in the past, made some touching remarks about his commitment to ending it peacefully.
“It’s important that we value the diversity of background culture and skills that all Marines bring to the service of our nation,” he says in the video. “As we implement repeal, I want leaders of all levels to reemphasize the importance of maintaining dignity and respect for one another throughout our force. We are Marines. We care for one another and respect the rights of all who wear this uniform.” He went on to highlight the values that the Marine Corps have embraced throughout its history, and called on all Marines to continue that tradition regardless of their rank.
Amos previously opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” saying that allowing gay men and lesbians to serve at this time could pose a distraction and cost lives and testifying to Congress about the potential harms. Furthermore, a Defense Department survey released in November found that a slightly higher percentage of Marines felt repeal would negatively impact unit cohesion.
Nevertheless, LGBT advocates are praising his statements as well as his initiatives to set “a positive, proactive tone” as the military prepares to accept openly gay men and lesbians into its armed forces, according to the Washington Post. Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign commented, “It’s heartening that in our democracy, military leaders may disagree but they do not hesitate to implement the laws passed by our elected leaders.” Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center at the University of California Santa Barbara, noted, “The signal this video sends to all troops is profound: the Marines are now setting the pace to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for all military branches.”
Marine Corps leaders are currently devising strategies to implement repeal of the law, including an operational planning team that is working with the Department of Defense. The Marine Corps Times reports that Defense Department officials predict it will take about three months for the military to be prepared for implementation. This includes three levels of training that will facilitate unit-level discussion among troops, commanders, and administrators and recruiters.
GLAAD applauds Gen. Amos and Sgt. Kent for creating this message, and will continue to report on media coverage of the end of this discriminatory law.