Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos — who has opposed repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — said that if Congress lifts the ban against open service and allows gays to serve without hiding their sexual orientation, the Marines could be so distracted that they would die in the line of duty. “I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda (hospital) with no legs,” he said, adding “mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives. That’s the currency of this fight.”
The following day, as the House of Representatives took up the measure to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Republicans clung to Amos’ remarks as a reason to preserve the policy. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the lead opponent of repeal in the Senate, even referenced his remarks in a radio interview:
— REP. DUNCAN HUNTER JR. (R-CA): Let me just start out by quoting Gen. Amos a couple of days ago, who is the Commandant of the Marine Corps on this issue…
— REP. BUCK McKEON (R-CA): Just yesterday, Gen. Amos made clear just how strongly he feels about the threat that he feels repeal poses to Marines in combat…
— REP. PHIL GINGREY (R-GA): The Marine Corps Commandant state that repealing the 17-year-old ban could endanger troops and cost lives.
— SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): The Commandant of the Marine Corps is unalterably opposed to repeal. He again made a statement yesterday that it could cost the lives of Marines.
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On Wednesday, Staff Sgt. Eric Alva — a gay Marine who lost his leg in Iraq and became the first Marine to be seriously injured in the war — took issue with Amos’ remarks, saying “He pretty much spit on me, my Purple Heart, and my 13 years of service.” “I wish Obama would invite [Amos] to the White House and fire his ass on the spot,” Alva told Andrew Harmon of The Advocate.