The uniform leader of the Marine Corps said on Thursday he would seek separate quarters for Marines should Congress repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
In an interview with Military.com, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said he wouldn’t require straight Marines to bunk with gay Marines on base, if the situation can be avoided, should Congress repeal the law.
“We want to continue [two-person rooms], but I would not ask our Marines to live with someone who is homosexual if we can possibly avoid it,” Conway said. “And to me that means we have to build [bachelor enlisted quarters] and have single rooms.”
Conway said the Marine Corps is the only service that has two-person rooms because the service thinks its good for unit cohesion, but should the law change allowing open service, the Marine Corps would want to have single rooms.
“If we believe [two-person rooms] is going to be adverse to unit cohesion, then why wouldn’t we join every other services’ standard and say that, you know, under the previous regulations it was conducive, under the current regulations, it’s got the potential to cause friction,” he said.
In the course of engaging Marines on their positions on gays in the military, Conway said an “overwhelming number” have “significant concern” about issues regarding repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” although he said he wouldn’t estimate a percentage.
“If perception is reality, we just think our corps would not want to see it changed,” Conway said. “If it is changed, it’s going to require some leadership engaging to make sure that our orders are carried out.”
Pressed further by Military.com on why separate rooms are necessary, Conway said he would “want to preserve the right of a Marine that thinks he or she wouldn’t want to do that, and again, that’s the overwhelming number of people that say they wouldn’t like to do so.”
Media sources in the past several months have reported Conway has emerged as one of the leading opponents of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in discussions among the service chiefs.
In a statement, Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the Palm Center, a think-tank on gays in the military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said Conway’s proposal doesn’t square with decades of research on gays in the military.
“Decades of research, including all of the conclusions of the 1993 RAND study, shows that separating gays and straights is a bad idea,” he said. “RAND found that creating policies that are applied only to one group of people or to accommodate the prejudices of another group of people only undercut the larger mission of a unified, integrated force.”