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Officer: Marines Oppose Lifting 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway, seen speaking with House Armed Service Committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton last week, said there is widespread opposition in the Corps to allowing gays to serve openly. Alex Brandon/AP hide caption

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Alex Brandon/AP

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway, seen speaking with House Armed Service Committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton last week, said there is widespread opposition in the Corps to allowing gays to serve openly.

Alex Brandon/AP

The Marine Corps' top officer said Tuesday that there is widespread opposition in the Corps to allowing gays to serve openly, an issue the Senate is expected to take up next month.

"I can tell you that an overwhelming majority would like not to be roomed with a person who is openly homosexual," Commandant Gen. James Conway told reporters at the Pentagon. "Some do not object, and perhaps a voluntary basis might be the best way to start without violating anyone's sense of moral concern or perception on the part of their mates."

He said that Marines in particular recruit "pretty macho" young Americans, many of whom have religious objections to sharing a room with a gay person. Marines live in tight quarters, whether aboard ship or in the field, and the Corps traditionally has young Marines rooming together as a way to build unit cohesion.

That tradition, Conway said, is at the heart of the Marines' opposition to repealing the so-called don't ask, don't tell law. Should the law change, Conway said, adjustments would have to be made.

"We've got a war to fight," he said, "and we need to, if the law changes, implement [it] and get on with it."

Conway, known for his candor, is planning to retire this fall after 40 years in the Marines.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report