The repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" hasn't yet gone into effect -- and won't until 60 days after military chiefs have certified that it won't hurt the military's ability to fight. But the U.S. Marines have already begun training in preparation to accept openly gay troops.
So what is actually covered in the gay acceptance training (which began earlier this year and is expected to be completed by the end of the summer)?
According to the AP, the training materials include instructions on what to do in the following scenarios:
-What should you do if you see two men from your battalion kissing at a shopping mall while they're off duty? (Answer: React the same way you would if it was a man and a woman.)
-What happens if you see a Marine dressed as a civilian and marching in a parade to support gays and lesbians in the military? (Answer: Nothing. Everyone has a right to freedom of expression.)
-What is the correct reaction if you witness locker-room gossip mocking gays and lesbians? (Answer: Remind fellow Marines that discrimination or harassment is inappropriate.)
So, just to review. What should you do if you come into contact with a gay person in the military? Answer: Behave like a respectful human being.
It's great the training materials are advising Marines to act respectfully to openly gay troops. But it's the emphasis on the fact that these changes are strictly about policy and adhering to orders from above -- and not beliefs -- that falls short of the ideal. From the training material:
You remain obligated to follow orders that involve interaction with others who are gay or lesbian, even if an unwillingness to do so is based on strong, sincerely held moral or religious beliefs.
Well, when you put it that way ...
The problem with this wording is that there is a clear "us versus them" mentality. Yes, the military is taking a step by allowing openly gay troops to serve, but it's still singling gay and lesbian troops out and sanctioning a dislike of them. In terms of acceptance, it doesn't go far enough. And, couldn't it alternately be framed as such? Show respect to all troops serving in the military, regardless of sexual orientation.
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