The Marine Corps fraternization policy is contained in Marine Corps Manual 1100.4.
Fraternization is the term used to describe improper personal and business relationships among Marines of different ranks or positions. When contact and relationships exceed these standards and become those of "buddies" or peers, then fraternization exists. Under the Marine Corps policy, commanders are instructed to look at the facts and circumstances of each case:
(1) Is there a compromise of the chain of command?
(2) Is there an appearance of partiality? (REMEMBER: when dealing with the subject of fraternization, perceptions are as deadly as reality).
(3) Is there the potential for good order, discipline, morale, or authority to be undermined?
If the commander determines that the answer to any of the above questions is "yes," then he/she may determine that the offense of fraternization occurred.
Overview. The Marine Corps policy regarding fraternization is the product of naval service customs. The Marine Corps specifically, and military society in general, has historically imposed social constraints on personal relationships between individuals of different rank, grade, or position. It is important to keep in mind that because customs vary between branches of the armed forces, the Marine Corps' view of fraternization can be different (stricter) than that of the Air Force or the Army.
Rules concerning fraternization. Fraternization rules date back to the time of the Roman army. The purpose of such constraints is to:
(a) Maintain good order and discipline.
(b) Promote relationships of mutual respect and confidence between juniors and seniors.
(c) Prevent adverse impact upon a junior's response to orders, the senior's exercise of command, or the perception of others regarding the senior's impartiality.
(d) Preserve the integrity of the chain of command.
Definition. Fraternization is a social or business relationship between Marines of different grades in violation of a custom of the naval service which, in the eyes of one experienced in military leadership, impacts adversely on good order and discipline, or degrades or at least threatens to degrade the character or status of the position that a Marine holds. Let us examine the parts of this definition in detail.
Some possible examples of activities encompassed by the term "fraternization" are:
Playing cards or gambling together.
Going to private homes or clubs together.
Dating or engaging in sexual activities.
Engaging in commercial transactions, except for one time sales or leases.
Showing favoritism or partiality.
Using one's authority for personal gain.
Military court decisions and the Manual for Courts-martial make clear that fraternization can occur between enlisted Marines. The classic case involves an officer-enlisted relationship, but it is not the only case.
The key issue is whether a relationship has developed in which mutual respect of grade is ignored.
The relationship need not be male-female.
Though not a rigid test, normal social or business relationships between Marines within the following six divisions do not constitute fraternization. (However, under some instructor-student relationship, even relationships within a particular group, would be considered fraternization):
Field grade officers.
Company grade officers (to include warrant officers).
Staff noncommissioned officers.
Junior enlisted Marines.