At the beginning of June the Marine Corps issued a forcewide message in recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride month.
“During the month, we take the opportunity to recognize our LGBT Service Members and reflect upon the past,” the MARADMIN message states.
The message comes as the military nears the 10th anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ― a policy that eased the restriction on gay and lesbian service members, but required them to hide their sexual orientation or risk being kicked out of the military.
In December 2010 President Barack Obama signed into law the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and in September 2011 service members no longer faced discharge based on their sexual orientation.
The direction to celebrate the Corps’ growing diversity came into the spotlight Monday when the Facebook page for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, posted a picture to honor pride month and LGBT Marines.
The post attracted attention, and as of Tuesday afternoon had more than 1,800 comments and 1,500 shares.
While many of the comments supported the post and repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, other commenters saw the post as an attack on religious freedom and a negative sign of the direction of the Marine Corps.
Those comments were met by responses from Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Yarbrough, a communications officer for the recruit depot, who fiercely defended the Corps’ stance on pride month and the diversity brought by LGBT Marines.
“The don’t ask don’t tell worked just fine,” one of the Facebook commenters said.
“I would imagine all the LGBT that was kicked out of the service would disagree,” Yarbrough replied. “No heterosexuals were kicked out due to sexuality. The policy was terrible and needed to go away.”
More than 13,600 service members were kicked out of the military for their sexuality under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, according to the MARADMIN.
Another commenter said the post was “totally against my morals and beliefs” and said the Corps is succumbing to “influences that do not belong.”
Yarbrough replied: “No one is asking you do anything but accept them as themselves.”
A spokesman for Headquarters Marine Corps did not comment on everything posted by the chief warrant officer, but did say most of Yarbrough’s replies matched with the Corps’ values.
“Although social media management policies vary between commands, much of the dialogue on this post shows the command responding directly to statements that are not in line with Marine Corps values or current policy,” Capt. Joseph Butterfield told Marine Corps Times in an email Tuesday.
“Muting or deleting negative comments allows certain thought processes to go unchallenged,” Butterfield added. “Social media is a two-way communication tool that allows us to engage multiple audiences directly, and sometimes that means disagreeing with members of an audience.”
One comment from Yarbrough did raise eyebrows in the Pentagon, however.
Butterfield said Headquarters Marine Corps would be reaching out Yarbrough’s command about his use of black socks in his utility uniform.
“This is assuming the drill instructors don’t talk to him first,” he said.
In case you missed it, more comments from the Facebook page: