In what was likely his last appearance in the Pentagon briefing room, soon-to-be retiring Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway once more waded into the “don’t ask, don’t tell” waters with his straight-shooter candor by suggesting that “very religious” Marines with “moral concerns” about homosexuality might not be forced to live with their gay battle buddies.
Marines are billeted – or assigned sleeping quarters – in twos. Already earlier this year, Conway told Military.com that he "would not ask our Marines" to bunk in the same rooms with openly gay Marines. But exactly what about cohabitation worried him was unclear.
On Tuesday, pressed to explain, Conway pointed to the religious morality argument. He said one solution the corps could consider is “perhaps a voluntary basis” in which those Marines who do not object to homosexuality would agree to take on billets with their fellow, openly gay Marines.
Pressed to explain further why he felt Marines, more than other service, are more outright opposed to allowing openly gay service, the commandant said:
“We recruit a certain type of young American – pretty macho guy or gal that is willing to go fight and perhaps die for their country,” he said.
“I can only think as we look as our mission, how we are forced to live in close proximity aboard ships, in the field for long periods of time and that type of thing…I just think all those things have impact on the Marines and we just as soon not see it change.”
Because the Marine Corps assigns living quarters by twos, they start off with a problem right out of the gate, once the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal takes effect, he said.
“I do not believe there is money out there…to allow every Marine to have a room by his or herself,” he said.
But the general said he expects Marine commanders to decide quickly once the old policy is dropped.
“If the law changes, we pride our corps in leading the services in many, many things and we’re gonna have to lead in this too,” Conway said.
“We cannot be seen as dragging our feet or in some way delaying implementation. We’ve got to, as the law changes, implement and get on with it.”