December 14, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Amos: Gays in military could ‘cost Marines’ lives’

Gay rights groups are fuming over remarks that the Marine Corps’ top general made on Tuesday suggesting that open service in the military would lead to lost lives on the battlefield.

On Tuesday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos reiterated his opposition to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and suggested the presence of openly gay people in the U.S. military could be a distraction that would result in additional fatalities.

“When your life hangs on the line, you don’t want anything distracting … Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives,” Amos said, according to the Washington Post.

The general cited the recently released Pentagon study on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which found that discontent over open service is higher in the Marine Corps than in other services. 

According to the report, while only 30 percent of service members generally thought serving alongside openly gay people would have a negative impact on performance, the percentage jumped to 43 percent for responders in the Marine Corps and 58 percent for responders in the Marine combat arms units.

Amos reportedly continued that Marines don’t want a “distraction” that “may have an effect on cohesion” and said he doesn’t want to “permit that opportunity to happen.”

“I’ll tell you why,” Amos was quoted as saying. ”If you go up to Bethesda [Naval] hospital . . . Marines are up there with no legs, none. We’ve got Marines at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] with no limbs.”

Amos reportedly continued: ”I don’t need a staff study. I don’t need to hire three PhDs to tell me what to interpret it. I’ve got Marines that came back to me as their commandant and said, we have concerns. So if they have concerns, I do, too. It’s as simple as that.”

In Senate testimony earlier this month, Amos recommended that Congress not act to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” although he said at the time the Marine Corps could implement a change in law if so ordered.

In a statement, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, chided Amos for his remarks and said he needs to “fall in line and salute or resign now.”

“Those fear tactics are not in the interest of any service member,” Sarvis said. “The General’s goal is to kill repeal no matter the consequences, perhaps at the dereliction of his other duties.”

Sarvis said Amos needs to stop lobbying against the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — who have called on Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If not, Sarvis said the president should “ask for his resignation.”

Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president of programs, also blasted Amos for his remarks and said he should fall in line with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who favor repeal.

“General Amos should be listening to his two bosses, the defense secretary and the joint chiefs chairman,” Sainz said. ”Both have made it clear that a gradual and orderly process carried about by the Pentagon as a result of legislative repeal is a far better alternative than a judge’s decision that could bring about repeal overnight.”

On Tuesday, when asked by The Advocate to respond to Amos’ remarks, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated his talking points that President Obama and Gates’ positions on ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal are “fairly well known.”

“I think the president, as the commander-in-chief, has a strong viewpoint, I think backed up by the survey conducted by the Pentagon as to the attitude of the men and women in our military, that this can be done in a way that strengthens our national security, preserves the best fighting force in the world, and most importantly does away with a policy that he doesn’t think is just,” Gibbs 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

16 Comments
  • The contrast of a President with guts such as Truman and Obama just keeps growing. Not only did Truman ignore much GREATER racism in the military, Congress, and society than the level of homophobia today, and order the forces racially integrated, but when the most popular General in the country, Douglas MacArthur, head of allied forces in Korea, publicly disagreed with Truman over his “limited-war strategy,” Truman FIRED HIM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WAR!

    Obama has not only refused to use his unequivocal legal powers under federal law 10 USC 12305 to freeze discharges in the name of national security—thus rendering DADT moot—but he’s let two Marine Commasshats in a row get away with publicly saying HE’s hurting the Corps, and, thus, national security, by at least verbally supporting ending the ban.

    Can someone PLEASE write Santa and ask him to leave some political Viagra under the White House Christmas tree? http://tinyurl.com/248svd5

  • This bigot marine corp general that Obama appointed has got a lot of nerve going on about gay service members. I think its time the Obama called for his resignation, and if it isn’t offered, then fire the S.O.B.

  • Gen. Amos has failed to provide a single example on how repeal of DADT would provide a fatal distraction.

    “A macho thing”? He makes the argument that gay men can’t be tough, and stereotypes an entire group of people. He seems to imply recruiting centers will be be inundated with glitter and show tunes. I’m tired of the argument that repealing DADT will harm troop morale and become a distraction while there’s not an ounce of evidence to support a disturbance. He could make a similar claims about women. I’m reading between the lines, but it seems to me that in his talk of macho camaraderie he may also not have the best attitude about women in the marines.

    As a gay medical student, I completely ruled out the military due to DADT, despite having several family members in the military and otherwise an interest in serving. There is a shortage of medical professionals. From my experience it must happen with great frequency. One of my friends is also fluent in Arabic, completed a masters in military operations, but was so alienated by the policy that he chose a different career path. The military is excluding people that are highly qualified with special skills to keep our troops safe.

    A couple of my gay peers are committed to the military service through medical scholarships. Their personal lives have suffered. While the military goes out of their way to make sure partners of straight service members are taken care of, they don’t recognize gay couples and forces men and women to deny their partners’ existence, making it difficult to impossible to maintain a meaningful relationships. Gay and lesbian service members have made great sacrifices, and in many cases foregone relationships for the sake of serving their country. It is time that the government has the decency to recognize their sacrifices.

  • The way to bring complete equality to the US military regarding DADT is the following; Any persons who refer in any way to their heterosexuality, such as marriage, engagement, children, divorce, flings, affairs, or interest, should be immediately kicked out and lose their jobs. Fair is only fair . . . and equal.

  • So much protesting makes me wonder why this pathetic loser is afraid of open service. Does it take away his ability to use threats of discharge to get Marines to drop their pants and grab their ankles for him?

  • Its his own opinion and the opinion of a large percentage of his Marines that he is expressing. He already stated that if the law was put in place that the Marine Corps would be able to implement it. So he is not refusing the order he is just adding, his and a large part of the Marine Corps opinion. Marines will, and always have done what their country has asked of them. And the next time you want to rant about someone pick a person who hasn’t spent their entire life in service to their country.

    • I spent 25 years in the Navy “Phillip” and even in those bygone days I lived discreetly and faced little or no harassment. I’m now a civil service employee with the Marines and find them to be the biggest bunch of bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic and semi-literate neanderthals in the military establishment. To
      Kommandant Amos and his stormtroopers: follow the order that’s on it’s way or get the HELL out!

  • Ha… “straight” marines prefer to have sexual encounters with other “straight” marines, not the “gay” ones. Because then they’re all still “straight”! Again, ha ;) It’s anything non-macho that makes them crazy, and having it discussed openly makes them anxious and nervous… anything non-ultramacho = feminine (to them), and the feminine (feeling, nurturing) is to be shunned and avoided at all costs. They’ve been trained/brainwashed to interpret that as weakness, unfortunately. Too bad for them and too bad for us. Especially when we now ask them to sit down and have tea with the locals in Afghanistan, and TALK to them. Sheeeesh.

  • I work out at Vida Vitness at Verizon Center. You can’t even get dressed in the locker room without all of the gays cruising you. It is nearly criminal how bold these men are at Vida. It is worse than a stalker or Peeping Tom. Considering that it so bad in the gym locker room, what makes you think that gays will control themselves in military showers? Cruising is an art form in your gay world, not the real world. Gays should not be open in the military.

  • This leader of the marine corp. is an embarrasing example of pure homophobia…he should be THANKING his gay marines for risking their lives every day..but oh no…instead..the straight marine is going to be soooo upset that he knows another marine is gay that he is going to step on a land mine and lose his legs…um…crazy…your table for one is now ready!

  • Michael…using your poor example of locker room cruising is what your side has come down to..every country ..all 30 of them that have open gays serving..dont have any problems…but all of the sudden..only American will..you cant deny rights to people based on YOUR locker room experience…there is something called freedom of speech in this country..and to force someone to lie about themselves shows nothing but a lack of integrity. There are already 66,0000 estimated gays in the military..and not one of them or those 14,000 discharged were discharges because they were “checking out” someone in the shower…they are professionals there to do a job..and they do it well, they are willing to take a bullet so you have the freedom to write what you wrote on this blog..show them some respect.

  • oh Michael….you seem to only discrimate against gays….have you ever heard of the “tail hook” scandal…seems like by far the straights in the military are the ones who cannot control themselves..open up some papers and see how many are charged with Rape, date rape etc…and I think by far you will see that the straight soldiers have way more sexual scandals…so should we not allow them into the military????

  • When Truman ordered the integration of blacks into the military..80% of America was opposed..now 75% of Americans and 70% of military say repeal with have a positive or have no negative effect…58% of marines are against repeal but out of those 58%..92% state they think they have served with Gays and had a positive combat unit effectivness…the pentagon report AND The report in 1993 show that this policy is BAD for the military..so why is there ANY reason to deny gays from serving openly??
    Oh, I forgot…many people hate gays and want to continue to relegate them to 2nd class citizens…forgot about the power of the SUPER minority!!!!

  • Phillip..we cant rant about a marine all we want….we respect him for doing his job..but for him and McCain to use disgusting scare tactics like..”I dont want to have to visit a marine who lost his legs because he was upset by a change in policy”..is ludicris. There are also MANY gay servicemembers that dont get respected and have to live a lie and are denied their freedom of speech..and least AMOS gets to state his opinion and not lose his job…his fellow gay marines deserve the same right.

  • Ken… we in the military gave up many rights when we signed up, we gave up the right to free speech, the right to be overweight, to grow our hair in any way we want, and many other rights that everyone else enjoys. Now what makes it any different when we say that someone doesn’t have the right to be openly gay? They can have their own desires privately, but to be open about something that is going to ruin the cohesiveness of a unit and therefore its effectiveness is counterproductive. The military has never catered to an individuals personal needs or desires that is what boot camp is all about, so why should they start catering now?

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