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Marine commandant clarifies opposition to 'don't ask' repeal

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 4:41 p.m. ET
The Pentagon on Tuesday asked Congress to avoid placing a moratorium on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy before the military completes a review of the policy.

“Taking action now would preempt the review process that everybody agrees is needed to do this smartly,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters. Put another way, Morrell said imposing a moratorium is like "putting the cart before the horse."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has asked the Army's European commander and the Pentagon's top general to lead a year-long review of the policy that bans gays from openly serving in the military. Several military leaders expressed support for the review this week, saying they would wait to form their own conclusions until service members are polled.

On Thursday Marine Corp Commandant Gen. James T. Conway also more clearly expressed his opposition to a repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy Thursday, telling senators he believes the current policy works.

"My personal opinion is that unless we can strip away the -- the emotion, the agendas, and the politics. And ask, at least in my case, do we somehow enhance the war fighting capabilities of the United States Marine Corps by allowing homosexuals to openly serve," Conway told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "And we haven't addressed it from the correct perspective. And at this point I think that the current policy works."

"My best military advice to this committee, to the secretary, and to the president would be to keep the law such as it is," Conway said.

Conway made similar comments to the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, telling lawmakers that they should stay focused on military readiness issues.

Pentagon officials and opponents of "don't ask, don't tell" had previously signaled that Conway likely would publicly express concerns with a repeal.

Conway and the other civilian and military leaders of the armed forces are appearing this week before the House and Senate armed services committees for annual budget hearings. Each leader has been asked for his personal opinion of the military policy that bans gays from openly serving in the military and whether he would support a repeal.

The Marine leader's comments came as the Human Rights Campaign announced plans to launch targeted lobbying efforts in five states -- Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, Virginia and West Virginia -- to pressure lawmakers in those states to support congressional efforts to repeal the policy. The campaign is designed to win support for a repeal from moderate Democrats including Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), HRC staffers said.

The group also plans a Capitol Hill rally and lobbying day on May 11.

“We know that nothing elevates this issue more than the personal stories of veterans and their families who have been so burdened by this law," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Too many members of Congress have been removed from the direct impact of ‘don't ask, don't tell.’ We hope this national call to lobby will activate former service members and their families to speak candidly and bluntly about the damage caused by this law."

President Obama reiterated his support for a repeal at an HRC event in October.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 25, 2010; 1:33 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

"do we somehow enhance the war fighting capabilities of the United States Marine Corps by allowing homosexuals to openly serve"

Sir, I see that the point whizzed right past you.

A follow up question should have been pressed: *how exactly does forcing homosexuals to NOT openly serve enhance the war fighting capabilities of the United States Marine Corps?*

The answer to this question, just as the one before, is as ridiculous as it is absurd.

Posted by: trident420 | February 25, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Repealing don't ask don't tell will, of necessity, create a class of pink commissar's to enforce a policy decision. If anybody out there thinks that this is just about letting a few (or a million) gay people stay in the military, you're dreaming.

The minute that a self-identified "gay" service member is denied promotion, the lawyers will come out to have a field day with commanders. All of his fitreps will, of course, be unreliable and biased against him because he's gay.

That's not the military I'm familiar with. If you're fat and straight, trim down. If you're slow and straight, get faster. If you're fat and gay, well, we sure don't want to offend you! If you're slow and gay, I guess we'll just have to give you a pass.

We'll have gone Trotsky one better and put the commissar inside the commander's head instead of one on each side.

The courts are the offensive weapon of the gay rights movement. We'll trade leaders like the CMC for lawyers who make sure that nobody is offended.

Posted by: tmschlitzer | February 25, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

tmshlitzer:

???
So, because these soldiers would have the same rights and responsibilities as other troops this will fundamentally change the military. Such nonsense.
Go back and look at the integration of blacks and women. Same arguments. All of them turned out to be false. Typical conservative argument - scared of everything. If people have problems with the gays serving alongside them, they aren't fit for military service. Just like Drill Sergeant Gates told my platoon about racists in the 1980's Army.

Is there anything conservatives aren't afraid of (except being useful in any capacity)?

Posted by: bflorhodes | February 25, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

When did the military start asking the rank and file their opinion -- wanna go to war? No, thanks, just joined up to learn to shoot things. Wanna risk your life on this patrol? No, not today. Why is the military even allowed to discuss this. Follow orders.

Posted by: rachbrit1 | February 25, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Bravo to General Conway for sticking up for the Marine Corps, which has served this nation proudly, its own damn way, since 1775. Those of you who never wore a uniform, but profess to tell those professional soldiers and sailors and Marines and airmen who do how to think, will never understand why we resist acting as you wish us to do. How many of the straights who profess to stand up for the rights of gays to serve openly ducked military service when they had a chance to serve? Maybe the straights want gays to be allowed to serve openly so that we'll always be at or near full-strength and this country won't be tempted to restore the draft so those fearful straights can avoid military service. Who needs you?

Brendan McConnell, USMC, 1993-1997

Posted by: bmcconnell1 | February 25, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Most people who haven’t served in the Military don’t know that there are still problems with women and other minorities in the military. What people don’t understand or even know about is the rampant favoritism and dumbing-down or lowering of standards for women and other minorities all in an effort to appear “inclusive” and for “diversity. “ It will be just as bad if not worse for openly gay service members. Gay members will demand – and get special privileges. There will be, unofficial of course, gay promotion and officer quotas.
People don’t realize that women and minorities in the military today get extra point towards advancement; they get special treatment for duty assignments and even in every work details. Women have enormous power over their male counterparts where even a mere suggestion of harassment can and does ruin careers.
The public doesn’t know just how bad it can be to morale when you have such a hostile anti white male work environment. Adding another protected “minority” to the mix will not help the military.
If you are gay don’t join the military. Homosexuals like to say how they don’t “choose” to be gay, they are made that way. Well someone who is born with one arm is also “made that way” and they are unable to join the military. No matter how much someone may want to serve their country, if you are unqualified by physical, or mental defect, you are not able to join.
But this is not just about homosexuals. ANYONE not measuring up to the SAME standards should not be allowed to join the military. If a woman wants to join, she should be able to do the same physical work that a man does. Women should not get to do less work just because they are women. If you can’t handle the job you should not be in the service and certainly should not be awarded easy jobs while stronger and more capable men are forced to die in their place. All in the name of political correct diversity.

Posted by: SlideRule | February 25, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

way to go general. keep things the way they are.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | February 25, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Why was this article buried?! The fact that the commander of our best fighting force believes rescinding DADT is a very bad idea should be front page. Those of us in the military are getting a bit fed up with the liberals' social agendas and immorality being forced upon the best fighting force in the world.

Posted by: Publius76 | February 25, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

so when will any of the elite liberal Democrats served in the military? How about from the Ivy League where ROTC is banned and at the same time, the Ivy League gets millions in tax dollars federal financial assistance. And of the 60+ women's college, any of those feminists/lesbians/straight/whatever will serve in the military? How can liberal Democrats supported the military when they are anti-defense and anti-military????

Posted by: Rockvillers | February 25, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I understand what he's saying. I don't need to know what your sexual preference is. Just as the fact that I'm hetero is irrelevant to the job at hand. To want to be flagrant in your preferences is borrowing trouble. What we have now may not be perfect but until we get there let it be. Unfortunately it will probably be at least another generation or two before we get there. So sorry. No comments either as I have friends from both sides[m&f]who agree with me. Defusing the situation is the most important thing that can be done right now. You'll get there...just not today.

Posted by: skybride56 | February 25, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

I served for 6 years. I support gays being able to openly serve. When changes came about, I followed orders and got in line. Women came aboard ship. I adapted. If you are afraid of gays maybe you are too cowardly to be facing our enemies? I served with decent hardworking people that were of all sexual persuasions. None of us raped, intimidated or harassed each other. Then again, we were professionals.

Posted by: rcvinson64 | February 25, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

So under the proposed DO ASK DO TELL policy we'll have cross dressing drill sergeants?
Wow! This Army vet will be putting his money on the Taliban.

Posted by: twharvey1 | February 26, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I'll answer the question for this Jarhead.

Would having roughly 150 additional Arab linguists enhance our ability to understand intelligence? Would that enhance our fighting capabilities?

The obvious answer is yes. And since so many of the gay and lesbian folks kicked out have this background, we are actually a weakened fighting force.

That extends to the expertise of every gay and lesbian soldier discharged under the "working" policy. How are we a stronger fighting force without them?

This jarhead homophobe is the type who nitwit that needs a Commander in Chief to order him to implement the change and make sure he knows that he either accepts it happily, or explain how he can retire his bigoted moron macho-sissy ass immediately.

Enough with the staged theatre of bigotry already. Repeal DADT and move on.

Posted by: gilbert6 | February 26, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

In response to those who believe service is only for the strong, I spent 20 years in the Marine Corps; yes, a black female. I considered myself to be in the top ten percentile. I always scored 1st class on my PFTs, in fact once I scored 300. I am an avid swimmer, expert rifle and pistol, twice I was high scorer on the range AND in my unit; a subject matter expert in my field, I even received a Marine Corps wide award for excellence in my field; and I graduated first place in NCO school and almost did so on several other occasions. I successfully served as a drill instructor to recruits AND officers at OCS, you'll find me in several of the documentaries that have been shown on TV. But with all this said, I never reached a level of success that I felt I deserved mainly because of false perceptions and stereotypes. No, I am not gay, but I do smile a lot and I'm very laid back:-) I can be defensive when I feel I'm being attacked, which can be received as having an attitude-NO I just don't allow people to treat me any ole' kind of way!! Nonetheless, I'm sure I contributed to some fault in my career, but I do believe it was also false perceptions and stereotypes that contributed to it as well! What I'm trying to say is that stereotypes hurt--they hurt people and they hurt the cause. I could have contributed so much more to the Corps that I love if I had been judged equally and fairly according to my contributions. Lastly, in my 20 years of service, I came across many homosexuals who were serving in the Navy/Marine Corps. They have always served, and will continue to do so. I agree with the Commandant on conducting a study on the effects of openly serving, but from my observation, I do not believe much would change considering the fact that many homosexuals serve today and people are quite aware of their existence.

Posted by: nancyholly | February 26, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I am in favor of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy and I see no reason to change a system that is not broken.

Homos are 1% or less of the US population and of that 1% less than 0.001% have indicated any desire to join the military. that comes to about 3000 homos that desire to disrupt the organization of the armed forces. All this hullabaloo about 3000 homos that are objecting to people refusing to accept their abismal/decadent behavior choices.

Don't Ask Don't Tell . . . If it ain't broke don't fix it.

If any change is made it should be to kick them out of the service to begin with.

Posted by: GyroTyro | February 26, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

What many people don't realize is that while "don't ask don't tell" sounds like everyone just mind their own business about the sexual orientation of any service member, the actual implementation of it is actually just the opposite.

Let's say a gay Marine (and yes, there are more of them than you'd think) was seen coming out of a male strip club by his CO off base.

Said CO then asked the Marine what he was doing there, in contravention of the policy. In theory, the CO would be the one in trouble for asking.

In practice, the Marine would either face an insubordination charge if he refused to answer at all, or would be charged with lying to a commissioned Officer, with all the punishments that would entail ( up to and including a bad conduct discharge and 5 years in the brig).

Should a fellow Marine see this and report it, once again even though the first offense was not committed by the gay Marine, he would be the one to suffer.

What don't ask, don't tell actually means is that gay military personnel must live a lie 24/7, fearing that at any moment one of their comrades who are supposed to have their backs will instead knife them in it.

When asked "how was the weekend?" unlike their straight counterparts who can talk about what they did with their girlfriends or wives, they either have to give something noncommital, or lie.

If you don't think that this is actually harmful to national security, you've got rocks in your head.

That is why the law should be repealed.

Posted by: PierreFidelia | February 26, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

for the poster that asked if 150 more arab linguists would help? yeah why don't we contract them so that they won't have to comply with DADT and then there is no issue. This whole push is for a political grandstand and the perceived "breaking down of barriers" doesn't wash; a black female one armed human does not have a choice of being that way but one who turns from what is natural always can come back to the natural. Before you label me a homophobe or stupid or (fill in the blank) and hurl all sorts of invectives I am HOMO-LOATHIC not homo-phobic...get it correct;-) OOH RAH! My Commandant OOH frikin RAH Baby!

Posted by: bkmoody1 | February 26, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Once again a Commandant of Marines proves that he not a political yes man. When Libs start lining up at USMC Recruiting Station doors seeking to fight this Country's battles, then they have earned a right to run their gums. The Military has nothing to gain by allowing a minute fraction to practice their perverse conduct and nothing but heartburn will occur if the libs manage to have the present law repealed with a proclamation that homosexual conduct is conducive to military life. The 98% is not locked up with the 2%, the 2% is locked up with the 98% and yes fraticide's do exist within the ranks.

Posted by: waltk1 | February 26, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

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