As he prepares to step down at the end of the month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is taking time to visit Afghanistan and assess the state of the troops on the ground. And though he has been a strong force in keeping morale high, Gates had some tough love recently as he spoke to troops about his thoughts on gays serving in the military.

During his visit to Afghanistan, Gates spoke candidly about concerns on the ground as well as about personal issues with the recently upturned “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. The military’s new policy is currently undergoing review by President Obama, Secretary Gates as well as high-ranking members of U.S. Forces and will be implemented 60 days after it is confirmed it will not affect troop readiness.

As he held a Q&A with service men and women to talk about DADT, the outgoing Secretary fielded some difficult questions.

According to Reuters, one Marine Corps sergeant threw Gates a hard ball when he got his turn, saying:

“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 And we have gone and changed those values and repealed the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. 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?”

Known for his straightforwardness, Gates answered squarely:

“No. You’ll have to complete your … enlistment just like everybody else…If we do this right, nothing will change. You will still have to abide by the same rules of behavior, the same discipline, the same respect for each other that has been the case through all the history of the Marine Corps.”

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was a policy implemented under the Clinton Administration. The policy allowed gay individuals to serve in the military as long as they kept their sexual preference to themselves. Last December, Congress voted to repeal the policy after President Obama and the Department of Justice made it clear they would no longer uphold the policy in court rulings. The shift in policy was a high point for many LGBT advocates who for years have called for an end to DADT, which many saw as the military’s blind eye policy.

While many factions within the military community have been resistant to the change, none has been as adamant as the Marine Corps. Still, Gates made it clear that disagreement over the policy should not prohibit service men and women from working together.

“The reality is that you don’t all agree with each other on your politics, you don’t agree with each other on your religion, you don’t agree with each other on a lot of things. But you still serve together. And you work together. And you look out for each other. And that’s all that matters.”

What do you think about Secretary Gates’ answer to the Marine Corps concerned with the end of DADT? Should the military allow those who disagree with its new policy of accepting gays in the service to opt-out? Tell us what you think Clutchettes- weigh in and share your thoughts!

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