U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was on farewell tour in Afghanistan, told Marines Sunday that they cannot discontinue their military enlistment over their opposition to the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
President Obama signed into law in December the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which barred gays from openly serving in the military.
The DADT policy, however, remains in effect until 60 days after the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify to Congress that the Armed Forces are prepared to implement the repeal.
Gates, who will step down at the end of the month, was asked by a Marine sergeant who wanted to know whether military personnel who enlisted before the repeal of DADT would be able to opt-out of their service if they disagreed with the repeal.
"Sir, we joined the Marine Corps because the Marine Corps has a set of standards and values that is better than that of the civilian sector. And we have gone and changed those values and repealed the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," the sergeant said to Gates during a question and answer session, according to Reuters.
"We have not given the Marines a chance to decide whether they wish to continue serving under that. Is there going to be an option for those Marines that no longer wish to serve due to the fact their moral values have not changed?" he asked.
Gates’ answer was a blunt, “No.”
"You'll have to complete your ... enlistment just like everybody else,” said the Secretary of Defense, as reported by Reuters.
The U.S. Army recently launched a new website on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,” which supports the statement made by Gates.
The frequently asked questions page of the website states that the “Army does not permit the early discharge of Soldiers based upon their opposition to the repeal of any new policy.”
Information provided on the website also states that soldiers cannot legally refuse to share accommodations with a gay solider; all soldiers who were honorably discharged from the Army under DADT will have an equal opportunity to apply for reentry; and transgender and transsexual individuals are still not allowed to join the Army.
The Army began educating Army personnel on the process and policies associated with the repeal of DADT on Feb. 17, 2011.
General George W. Casey Jr., chief of staff of the U.S. Army, appears in an orientation video for troops that addresses the training on the implementation of the repeal. Those in active military service will meet in small groups with their chaplains, lawyers and inspectors general to learn about the changes, he says.
“The intent of the training is for you to understand how we will implement the changing policy, not to debate its merits,” Casey states in the video.
He also makes clear that until the effective date of the DADT repeal is announced, the current policy still remains in effect.