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Published: Saturday, 12/3/2011


Military (non)issue

The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," the discriminatory policy that allowed gays to serve in the U.S. military only if they lived a lie, brought out distaste in the usual quarters. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was applauded when he said he would reinstate the policy during a September debate, in which the audience booed a gay soldier.

Mr. Santorum and others who fear the worst might consider the views of Gen. James Amos, the Marine commandant, if only because he was a leading voice in the military against the change.

In December, 2010, before President Obama signed the repeal, the general told Congress: "Successfully implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level, as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus on preparing units for combat."

But after a recent trip overseas, including a stop in Afghanistan, he said the repeal has turned out to be "a non-issue." He said he sees no sign of disruption in the ranks, or on the front lines. In Afghanistan, the subject didn't come up.

Americans can attribute this in part to Pentagon training before the new policy took effect in September. Part of it can be attributed to the professionalism of the Marines who, despite the initial reservations of many in their ranks, saluted and got on with the job.

It is early and the experience of other branches of the military are not clear, but General Amos' second thoughts are encouraging. This issue is marching into history and quiet acceptance, despite attempts by some politicians and their supporters to retreat in the face of irrational fear.

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