Marine Commandant Says Gays Would Live Separately If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Is Repealed

Yesterday, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued more lenient guidelines for enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, General James Conway — Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps — reiterated his opposition to repealing the policy and told Military.com he will insist that the Marines have the option of not living alongside gay servicemembers:

CONWAY: We just think that our corps will not want to see it changed. If it is changed, it’s going to require some leadership, engaging, to ensure our order are carried out. It’s going to require some resources. Because right now we billet by twos. We’re the only service that billets by twos. We like that, we want to continue doing that. But I would not ask our Marines to live with someone who is homosexual, if we could possibly avoid it. And to me, it means we have to build BEQs [Bachelor/Base Enlisted Quarters] that have single rooms.

QUESTION: Why not, why wouldn’t you let them live with someone who’s homosexual?

CONWAY: Well, ah. I think, I think, one I would, in this case, want to preserve the right of a Marine who thinks he or she wouldn’t want to do that. Okay? And again, that’s the overwhelming number of people that say they wouldn’t like to do so.


Marines are forced to do and live in a whole host of disagreeable conditions and it’s unclear why Conway wants to preserve Marine choice “in this case,” particularly since “men and women of all races, religions, and values train together, sleep in extremely close quarters, and eat in the same mess halls without detriment to unit cohesion or military effectiveness.” Living with a gay servicemember, however, is apparently so insidious that Conway must carve out a special exemption for those Marines who “wouldn’t want to do that.”

Should his request be granted, the United States will become the only nation (of the 25 that have dropped the ban) that segregates its servicemembers on the basis of sexual orientation. As Larry Korb argues in this new report, “the militaries of Great Britain, Canada, and Israel amply demonstrate that lifting the ban on openly gay service will not require the U.S. military to provide separate housing, shower, or other common-use facilities for gay and lesbian service members.” In fact, even General Carl Mundy, commandant of the Marine Corps from 1991 to 1995 and an opponent of a repeal, has predicted that segregating the forces “would be absolutely disastrous in the armed forces. …It would destroy any sense of cohesion or teamwork or good order and discipline.”