Emotions Run High at California Marine Base With AM-Gays-Military, Bjt
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) _ Warnings of low morale and resignations swept through this sprawling Marine base Thursday as President Clinton moved toward lifting the military’s ban on homosexuals.
″It’s an uproar on base right now,″ said 1st Lt. Donnell Orleski. ″There’s a lot of hostility and aggression.″
Key Senate Democrats proposed a compromise Thursday night that would have the Pentagon stop asking recruits about their sexual orientation, and grant a ″partial moratorium″ on discharging homosexuals. The proposal would allow a commander to temporarily transfer a homosexual.
Clinton said earlier in the day he remained committed to ultimately ending the ban. Separately, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled the ban was unconstitutional.
Some Marines said comrades were talking about leaving the Corps once their tours of duty end - or even sooner.
″You’ve got a lot of good people you respect who are saying, ’Look, personally I can’t live with this policy,‴ said Capt. Clark Fleming. ″When you see good people get out like that, it’s got to have an effect.″
Not all predictions were so dire.
″I don’t really see the big deal about it,″ said Cpl. Patricia Teachey. ″I believe in equal rights.″ Teachey said she feared that homosexuals who reveal their identity could risk reprisals.
Orleski said her job commanding a company of Marines would become more complicated if she has to pay special attention to the safety of homosexuals. ″I definitely think people could get hurt,″ she said.
Others at the northern San Diego County base expressed emotions ranging from fear to outrage.
″I wouldn’t want to live with a homosexual Marine, and I don’t blame any of my younger Marines for not wanting to,″ said Warrant Officer Ron Sablan, who has been a Marine for 12 years.
Lance Cpl. Richard McDowell said he believed many homosexuals might not have the courage necessary for battle.
″I don’t think they’d handle it,″ McDowell said. ″I wouldn’t feel comfortable with some guy who’s gay, in a fighting hole, in the middle of battle. You wouldn’t know if he’d be thinking about fighting or be thinking about, you know, you.″
Asked if he was concerned homosexuals might secretly be serving with him now, McDowell said, ″What I don’t know won’t hurt me.″
Despite strong personal opposition to the plan, Fleming said he thinks Marines could adjust.
″As Marines have always done, when the commander-in-chief speaks we’re going to step back in line and say ‘aye-aye, sir,’ and carry on,″ he said.