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New Marine Corps Commandant: Don't Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

“There’s risk involved. ... I’m trying to determine how to measure that risk.”

6:35 AM, Nov 8, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The AP reports that General James F. Amos, the recently-confirmed commandant of the Marine Corps, thinks the ban on gays serving openly in the military should not be repealed: 

With American troops in the thick of the fighting in Afghanistan, the new commandant of the Marines Corps says now is not the time to overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting gay men and women from openly serving in the military.

“This is not a social thing,” said Gen. James F. Amos, the Marines commandant. “This is combat effectiveness.”

Last month, the Pentagon was forced to lift its ban for eight days after a federal judge in California ordered the military to do so. The Justice Department has appealed, and a federal appeals court granted a temporary stay of the injunction.

General Amos said repeal of the policy could have unique consequences for the Marines.

“There’s risk involved,” he said. “I’m trying to determine how to measure that risk.”

The corps is exempt from a Defense Department rule for troops to have private living quarters except at basic training or officer candidate schools. The Marines puts two people in each room to promote a sense of unity.

“There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women — and when you talk of infantry, we’re talking our young men — laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers,” General Amos said. “I don’t know what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that’s what we’re looking at. It’s unit cohesion, it’s combat effectiveness.”

Democrats are reportedly pushing to vote on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during the lame duck session of Congress this month

Earlier this year, Democratic senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that some troops might say, "I'm not particularly comfortable, if I'm not gay, taking a shower with someone who is." But, Levin added, that attitude is "disappearing very rapidly, by the way, thank God, in this country. But I would bet you there are some people ... who would also say, 'I should[n't] feel that way.' Or that, 'It's wrong to discriminate against gay people.'"

While polls show that strong majorities say they favor repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a Quinnipiac poll this year showed that voters are, in fact, evenly split when they consider the real world implications of a repeal. Quinnipiac asked registered voters: "Do you think heterosexual military personnel should be required to share quarters with gay personnel or not?." 45% of voters said heterosexual personnel and openly gay personnel should be required to live together in military facilities, 46% said they should not.

Stuart Koehl made the case for keeping Don't Ask Don't Tell this summer.

Update: The Wall Street Journal reports: "Drive to Repeal 'Don't Ask' Policy All but Lost for Now."

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