Selling a Newly Out Armed Forces

The Pentagon makes sure the public supports 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal

"Marines get excited to see their loved ones," Simpson says. "I can guarantee that PDA following a deployment is a common occurrence. I've seen it myself."

Oh, and what was the official Marine response? "It's your typical homecoming photo," according to a spokesperson.

In fact, the vast majority of newly out service members are doing a pretty good job of self-policing their public behavior without any direction from above, much the same way early civil rights protesters always dressed formally and behaved impeccably while facing the jaws of police dogs and cannons of fire hoses. Typical of these still-early post-DADT days is OutServe's recently issued uniform guidance for Pride celebrations: "There is a time and a place for everything, and this year is probably not the time to make waves. . . . The issue of open LGBT military service is still viewed by many as a political hot potato, and marching in uniform could be viewed as an act of protest. OutServe's recommendation: This is not the year to take that step. Let's wait a year, demonstrate our professionalism as we march in civilian clothes, and next year, having proven ourselves, we can work with the Department and gain formal approval to proudly march together as a uniformed contingent for Pride."

Marine Brandon  Morgan's embrace attracted praise and put-downs.
Courtesy Facebook/Gay Marines
Marine Brandon Morgan's embrace attracted praise and put-downs.
But was it staged?
AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot/Brian J. Clark
But was it staged?

OutServe and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network are, however, actively calling for military recruiters to reach out to the gay community in the same way they target blacks, Hispanics, and women. But don't expect recruiters at Pride events. OutServe spokesperson Sue Fulton, a West Point graduate, thinks the "no news is good news" soft-sell recruiting strategy is just fine—for now. "Military culture always puts the team above the individual," she says. "I suspect authorities have no interest in highlighting individual gay and lesbian service members in any way."

What the anti-DADT forces have been successfully emphasizing is the huge cost savings to the U.S. taxpayer—estimated at $500 million by David Bakke, editor of Money Crashers Personal Finance. Rather than recruitment and enlistment plummeting, Bakke says, "this has turned out to be false, as many recruiters say both the quality and quantity of recruits is improving." DADT repeal actually opened up some valuable avenues that had been closed, such as ROTC and recruitment at elite universities.

There was no exodus of troops because the Pentagon did a good job of preparing the ranks. More than a year ago, service members filled out surveys that overwhelmingly supported DADT repeal. The statements of military chiefs that gay and lesbian service members will be treated equally, period, have been crucial to attitudes down the ranks. At a May 10 Pentagon press briefing, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters: "My view is that the military has kind of moved beyond it. It's become part and parcel of what they've accepted within the military." Service leaders have been sending him monthly updates on the impact of the repeal. No incidents have been reported as of two months ago.

As for the top brass, the most outspoken opponent, Marine Corps head General James Amos met a lesbian couple at a Marine ball late last year. His wife, Bonnie, greeted them with: "This is great! Nice to meet you." Even in the tough-as-nails Marines, Amos told AP that he was "very pleased with how it has gone."

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