What would she do, Bartos asked, if she saw two male Marines in a mall food court “kind of petting each other, putting their arms around each other, kissing each other?”
“That’s a very good question, sir,” Cardona said. “They’re not in a work environment, sir, so I can’t exactly tell them that that’s not appropriate.”
“You’re on the right track,” Bartos said.
“When you see these situations, think of it as two members of the opposite sex,” he told them.
He then asked a corporal what he would do if he heard two junior Marines joking in the locker room about showering in front of a gay colleague.
“It’s inappropriate in any situation, whether that Marine is homosexual, heterosexual, black, white, we’re all Marines, we’re all professionals,” the corporal said.
Bartos smiled. “You’re spot-on,” he said.
Similar sessions have been occuring on aircraft carriers and military bases, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a law passed by Congress in December, the Defense Department must instruct the more than 2 million men and women in uniform about the end of the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” before President Obama can officially repeal the almost 18-year ban on gays serving openly in the military.
The process began in February with training for chaplains, military lawyers and civilian Defense Department workers, followed by courses for commanding officers (including Bartos) and then the rank and file. Pentagon officials said the process has cost just $10,000 to develop instructional materials. The goal is to underscore that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.
This was Bartos’s second training course and although both started slowly, he said, what’s gotten Marines engaged is “how it will affect their daily lives.”
Obama’s certification could come before the training sessions end, because it won’t go into effect until 60 days after he issues it. White House and Pentagon officials wouldn’t say when he will issue the order, but close observers of the process expect it to come before Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates retires in late June.
Advocates for and against ending the ban have paid special attention to the Marines, who reported a higher level of concern about serving alongside gays in a Pentagon-sanctioned study released last fall.
Although most of the 400,000 troops surveyed said they had served with someone who they believed to be gay, and reported few, if any issues, between 40 and 60 percent of Marines were either concerned or predicted a negative reaction if the military started enlisting gays and lesbians. No other service reported such high levels of concern.