On a different, but related subject, Conway suggested that if the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law is repealed, the Marines may consider allowing Marines not to share quarters with homosexuals.
Conway said the Marines may make such housing arrangements “voluntary” to accommodate any “moral concerns.” He said many Marines are “very religious” and because of their moral concerns “don’t want to room” with homosexuals.
But Conway stressed that if the law is repealed, the Marines would take the lead in implementing it. “We cannot be seen as dragging our feet. We’ve got two wars to fight. We’ll implement it and move on,” said Conway.
Conway of course came under intense criticism in March when he told Military.com he will insist that the Marines have the option of not living alongside gay servicemembers. “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,” he said.
The Pentagon has tried to distance itself from Conway’s words. In July, after some interpreted the Pentagon’s suggestion that the military might use the results from the DADT survey to make “adjustments to facilities themselves,” Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morell told me, “no one is considering ‘separate but equal’ bathing or living facilities for you know, gay and straight troops. That’s just not ever a consideration.”
Indeed, should Conway’s 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 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.”
Conway expresses support for DADT more generally:
,Conway said he doesn’t believe there will be additional money to build separate baracks but suggested starting off with a voluntary system as “the best way to start without violating anybody’s sense of moral concern or a perception on the part of their mates”:
“Well, I think, as a commander, you try to satisfy the requirements of all your Marines. And if the law changes and we have homosexual Marines, we’ll be as concerned about their rights, their privileges, their morale, as we will Marines who feel differently about that whole paradigm.” He added that local commanders will be required “to assist us in making sure that every Marine is provided for and is focused on the fight at hand.”