Mil­i­tary lead­er­ship key to end­ing ser­vices’ gay ban

Dayton Daily News - - NATION+WORLD - By Lolita C. Baldor As­so­ci­ated Press

WASHINGTON — No pub­lic dis­plays of af­fec­tion. No sep­a­rate bath­rooms. No ha­rass­ment and no spe­cial treat­ment.

As the U.S. mil­i­tary be­gins to map out how it will im­ple­ment the new edict al­low­ing gays to serve openly, the first or­der of busi­ness is draft­ing the reg­u­la­tions. The rule changes un­der dis­cus­sion won’t dic­tate how troops feel about the change, but will strictly en­force how they act on it.

From small word­ing tweaks and train­ing pro­grams to more com­plex ques­tions about ben­e­fits and re­li­gion, the pro­posed guide­lines de­mand that gays and les­bians be treated just like any other sol­dier, sailor, air­man or ma­rine. But they also leave the door open for some flex­i­bil­ity in room as­sign­ments or other in­stances when com­man­ders be­lieve it’s needed to main­tain or­der and dis­ci­pline in their units.

The Se­nate voted Satur­day to re­peal the ban on openly gay ser­vice, fol­low­ing ear­lier ac­tion by the House, and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama plans to sign the bill into law on Wed­nes­day. But in letters to the troops dur­ing the week­end, the four mil­i­tary ser­vice chiefs warned that the ban is still in place, and will be for some time to come.

“The im­ple­men­ta­tion and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process will not hap­pen im­me­di­ately; it will take time,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nor­ton Schwartz said in an e-mail to air­men. “Mean­while, the cur­rent law re­mains in ef­fect. All Air Force mem­bers should con­duct them­selves ac­cord­ingly.”

Rec­om­men­da­tions to im­ple­ment the re­peal were out­lined in a 67-page re­port last month, and now must be formed into con­crete reg­u­la­tions. De­fense of­fi­cials said Mon­day that they still don’t know how long it will take be­fore the Pen­tagon com­pletes its im­ple­men­ta­tion plan and cer­ti­fies the change will not dam­age com­bat readi­ness. Once cer­ti­fied, the im­ple­men­ta­tion would be­gin 60 days later.

The re­port, how­ever, pro­vides a fairly de­tailed pre­view of what troops and the Amer­i­can pub­lic can ex­pect, once the new rules are in place.

And it puts the heav­i­est bur­den on com­man­ders who will have to walk a fine line be­tween en­forc­ing the up­dated code of mil­i­tary con­duct and rec­og­niz­ing when they may need to make some con­ces­sions.

The plans call for strict and im­me­di­ate ac­tion when the new rules are vi­o­lated. But there is also an em­pha­sis on ed­u­cat­ing troops who are hav­ing prob­lems. For ex­am­ple, in a se­ries of vi­gnettes listed in the re­port, the first course of ac­tion is of­ten coun­sel­ing.

What if a re­cruiter re­fuses to process re­cruits who say they are gay? What about a sailor who re­quests a new sleep­ing area to get away from a gay room­mate? Can a ser­vice mem­ber file a com­plaint against a chap­lain who preaches against ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity? And can a gay or les­bian ser­vice mem­ber get leave to travel home when their part­ner is ill?

In each case the rec­om­mended process is care­ful and de­lib­er­ate.

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