AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The U.S. Marine Corps is making it easier for women to cover up tattoos by allowing them to wear crew-neck undershirts beneath their uniforms, a shift that came after a complaint that existing rules made it too difficult for female recruits to cover their tattoos. The Marines announced the change on Thursday after U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree complained that its dress policy unintentionally discriminated against female recruits, as men were previously allowed to wear crew-neck t-shirts when women were not.
Last month, the Democrat from Maine urged the Marine Corps to amend its rules and accept 20-year-old Kennebunk resident Kate Pimental. She has a tattoo just below her collarbone that says, “Let your smile change the world but never let the world change you.”
The Marine Corps has a strict policy on tattoos — especially visible tattoos. Recruits can have no more than four tattoos, and they cannot contain any vulgar words or images or references to drugs. Additionally, sleeve tattoos that cover the arm are prohibited, as are tattoos on the face or neck. “Male recruits get a waiver when they have a tattoo like Kate’s because they can wear a T-shirt that covers it up,” Ms. Pingree wrote to the Marine Corps last month. “But because the Marine Corps uniform for women is cut lower, the same tattoo on a female recruit effectively keeps her from enlisting.”
The altered dress code means Pimental can now cover her tattoo, which she got shortly after turning 18. "There is nothing I want more than to be able to serve as a Marine," she said.
Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in letter to Pingree that changing the dress code so qualified women applicants like Pimental can join the Marines will "add to the strength and power of today's Marine Corps."
UPDATE (3/22/2016): According to a statement from the Office of the Commandant for the U.S. Marine Corps, Gen Neller has had NO COMMUNICATION with Rep. Pingree.