April 1, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
National news in brief

Marine Corps leader wants separate rooms for gay troops

The uniform leader of the Marine Corps says he would seek separate quarters for Marines should Congress repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In an interview with Military.com published March 25, 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 it 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 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 during the past several months have cast Conway 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.”

Boxer introduces COBRA bill to benefit partners

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation last week that would allow same-sex domestic partners to have the same access to COBRA benefits as married couples in some circumstances.

The bill, known as the Equal Access to COBRA Act, would allow LGBT people to continue to receive coverage for their same-sex partners under COBRA if they lose their job and their former employer offered health benefits to domestic partners.

In a statement, Boxer called the issue the legislation would address “a question of fairness.”

“Every family deserves access to health insurance, especially in this tough economy,” she said. “This bill ensures that domestic partners and their families will have equal access to health coverage after a job loss.”

According to Boxer’s statement, more than half of Fortune 500 companies cover domestic partners under their health plans.

Under COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, employers must continue to offer health care coverage to departing workers and their beneficiaries for up to 36 months.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that Boxer’s bill is important because same-sex couples “are equally affected by economic hardships and should have equal access to important benefits like COBRA continuation coverage.”

“In these troubled economic times, when many Americans are concerned about the security of their jobs and health insurance, LGBT people should not also have to worry whether the COBRA safety net will be there to help protect the health of their families,” he said.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • Gen. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, does not require separate barracks for straights who are celibate, exclusively coital, or engage in a variety of sexual acts (in direct violation of Article 125 of the UCMJ but in accordance with the long-standing tacit policy of DADT for straights). Why not?

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