Troops Convinced Marines Chief That Gays in the Military Aren't So Bad

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Gen. James F. Amos, the head of the U.S. Marines who wasn't too thrilled with Don't Ask Don't Tell being repealed in September, is thrilled today with how the lift on the ban of gays in the military has gone so far, reports the AP. Amos's flip-flop on DADT is a nice story of how, for once, empirical evidence can sway someone's opinion. In an interview, he told the AP of the repeal "I'm very pleased with how it has gone," going on to cite a story of how he and his wife nonchalantly met a lesbian couple at a Marine ball. Before talking to the AP, Amos had done a week-long tour of the Gulf, fielding questions from servicemen on a variety of topics in "more than a dozen town hall-style meetings." So how many times did gays in the military come up? Once: 

On his final stop, in Bahrain on Sunday, one Marine broached the topic gently. He asked Amos whether he planned to change the Marines' current policy of leaving it to the discretion of local commanders to determine how to handle complaints about derogatory "homosexual remarks or actions." Amos said no.

An extremely minor procedural question. Not chest-thumping rancor Amos might have expected last December. According to the AP, he told Congress then:

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.

Amos's criticism at the time didn't attack homosexuality in and of itself, but rather its effect on "unit cohesion." He knew that 60 percent of Marines thought the repeal would negatively impact them, and believed he had to take a position against it to support the interests of his Marines. A quote the AP report didn't include:

I cannot reconcile, nor turn my back, on the negative perceptions held by our Marines who are most engaged in the hard work of day-to-day operations in Afghanistan.

Apparently, Amos's informal polling during his town hall meeting is telling him that Marines have found their "negative perceptions" from December unfounded. Glad to Amos tweaking his opinion to evidence (however casual). Now let's see if pols follow in his footsteps.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.