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Marine officer investigated for allegedly slurring gays in e-mail


December 14, 1999
Web posted at: 6:51 p.m. EST (2351 GMT)

In this story:

'Officers must not condone homosexual jokes'

Message refers to Fort Campbell murder case


From Producer Chris Plante

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Marine Corps lieutenant colonel is under investigation for derogatory comments he allegedly made on an internal e-mail about gays serving in the Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps e-mail, obtained by CNN, demonstrates the ongoing tug-of-war inside the military services over the implementation of the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding homosexuals serving in the armed forces.

Gay rights

The U.S. military

In the electronic message distributed to the officer's subordinates, Lt. Col. Edward Melton refers to a murdered Army private as "a homo" and to gays as "queer."

Melton is stationed at a base in Twentynine Palms, California, according to a military official.

'Officers must not condone homosexual jokes'

Under orders from Defense Secretary William Cohen, the office of the chief of naval operations, along with the other service chiefs, provided a "clarification" of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy to Navy and Marine Corps leaders in October.

"Commanding officers must not condone homosexual jokes, epithets, or derogatory comments and must ensure a command climate that fosters respect for all individuals," the guidance reads.

The densely worded Defense Department memo, "reiterates existing policy regarding investigation of, threats against or harassment of service members on the basis of alleged homosexuality."

Under the 5-year-old policy, the services are not allowed to ask a service member if he or she is gay, and homosexuals serving in the military are not allowed to tell anyone that they are gay under threat of expulsion from the service. Any homosexual conduct also results in expulsion.

In passing along the Pentagon's guidance by way of e-mail, however, Melton allegedly injected personal bias toward homosexuals before redistributing the memo internally.

Message refers to Fort Campbell murder case

The e-mail reads, in part, "Due to the 'hate crime' death of a homo in the Army, we now have to take extra steps to ensure the safety of the queer who has 'told.'"

The death referred to in the e-mail is the murder of Army Pfc. Barry Winchell, 21, who was beaten to death with a baseball bat by a fellow soldier at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, after allegations that Winchell was gay.

Army Pfc. Calvin Glover, 18, recently was sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of Winchell, and his accused accomplice will face court-martial soon.

Other internal Marine Corps messages attached to the guidance show that some of the officers are taking the implementation of the policy more seriously.

One of the memos distributed within the Marine Corps states, "Remember, screwing up any homosexual case provides an excellent opportunity to appear on (the television show) "60 Minutes." My job is to deny you that opportunity. Call me on all these cases."

The investigation of Melton was initiated when the offending e-mail was sent anonymously to Marine commanders at the Twentynine Palms base.

President seeks better implementation of 'don't ask, don't tell'
December 11, 1999

ACLU: Gay and Lesbian Rights
The Military's Ban Against Homosexuals Should Remain
DefenseLINK - Official Web Site of the U.S. Department of Defense
WWW.GAYMILITARY.ORG | Dave's Gay Military Site
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