Jonathan Chait

A Marine Sgt. Major On Gays In The Military

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This is what social progress looks like:

Sgt. Maj. Barrett also tackled questions on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military’s ban on gays serving openly in uniform. The Department of Defense is preparing to implement repeal, and Sgt. Maj. Barrett addressed that issue directly.

“Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is pretty simple,” he told a group of Marines at a base in South Korea. “It says, ‘Raise an army.’ It says absolutely nothing about race, color, creed, sexual orientation.

“You all joined for a reason: to serve,” he continued. “To protect our nation, right?”

“Yes, sergeant major,” Marines replied.

“How dare we, then, exclude a group of people who want to do the same thing you do right now, something that is honorable and noble?” Sgt. Maj. Barrett continued, raising his voice just a notch. “Right?”

Sgt. Maj. Barrett then described conversations with U.K. troops, who saw a similar ban lifted a decade ago, with little disruption. And to drive the point home, he produced a pocket copy of the Constitution.

“Get over it,” he said. “We’re magnificent, we’re going to continue to be. … Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines.”

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