An active duty infantry officer, Nathan Cox, has a piece in the Washington Post today, and he brings up some really interesting points that might have been lost in the argument over DADT repeal:

In my experience, the things that separate Marines in civilian life fade into obscurity on the battlefield. There, only one thing matters: Can you do your job? People care much more about whom you voted for or what city you’re from while on the huge airbase with five Burger Kings, or back in the States, than they do when they’re walking down a dusty road full of improvised explosive devices in Haditha or Sangin.

In the end, Marines in combat will treat sexual orientation the same way they treat race, religion and one’s stance on the likelihood of the Patriots winning another Super Bowl. I do not believe the intense desire we all feel as Marines to accomplish the mission and protect each other will be affected in the slightest by knowing the sexual orientation of the man or woman next to us.

In the recent Defense Department survey, 58 percent of combat arms Marines said they felt allowing homosexuals to serve openly would negatively affect their unit, but 84 percent of combat arms Marines who had served with a homosexual said that there would be no effect or that the effect would be positive. It seems obvious that if allowing homosexuals to serve openly degraded performance, rather than improved it, a majority of Marines who had served with homosexuals would oppose repeal.

We really shouldn’t be talking about the “fears” of people who don’t realize they’ve been serving with gay people all along. The way the DADT Pentagon study has been presented, the Marines have been shown as a bit of an outlier, struggling to hold on to whatever it is they’re trying to hold on to. But here you have a Marine pointing out that, of combat Marines who knew they were serving with gay people, 84 percent said, in essence, “no biggie!” That’s also why I’ve personally found some of the wording of the survey a bit strange, differentiating between whether troops think there will be a “positive effect” or “no effect.” The truth is that most military people who actually do their jobs well don’t really have an opinion on the subject, because it’s not keeping them up at night! Tons of them already know they serve with gay people, and it’s no biggie. Many more who didn’t realize it before are reacting with a collective “meh” to the idea. It’s important to remember that the large numbers who are saying “meh,” are having a positive reaction. They’re saying “If they do their jobs, how on god’s earth does it affect me?”

The 84% figure is significant in another way, too: the greatest enemy the Religious Right has on all issues relating to homosexuality is the bright shining light of education and reality. That figure is in line with the statistics that say that, if a person knows a gay person, they’re a hell of a lot more likely to vote in our favor. One would think that if anything the Religious Right said about gay people wasn’t a calculated lie, the statistics would skew in the other direction. But no: the fundamentalists are still liars, and gays are still just folks.

Read Cox’s whole piece, because there’s a lot more where that came from.