Jesus H. Christ — Admiral Mullen has a handful now. The free-flowing ignorance of Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway, who surely has gay service members bunking in with hetero ones, is ready for some same-sex segregation. They’ve already seen each other naked, General.

The Marine Corps’ top officer said March 25 that even if the ban on openly-serving gays in the services is lifted, he would draw the line at forcing heterosexual Marines to bunk with gays on base.

“We want to continue (two-person rooms), but I would not ask our Marines to live with someone who is homosexual if we can possibly avoid it,” Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway told during an exclusive interview at the Pentagon.  “And to me that means we have to build BEQs (bachelor enlisted quarters) and have single rooms.”

And what do you know,  goes to military “expert” Elaine Donnelly:

“In this case, I would want to reserve the right of a Marine that thinks he or she wouldn’t want to [share a room with a homosexual]. And again that’s the overwhelming … number of people that say that they wouldn’t like to do so.” Conway said the Corps billets two-to-a-room — unique today among the services — because it believes it’s good for unit cohesion. But if a gay Marine sharing a room with a straight one has the opposite effect, the Corps will adopt the single-room standard of the other services.

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness said the question is whether the military, without a ban on gays serving openly, will opt for mixing gays and heterosexual troops in the same facilities or have “separate but equal” facilities.

“That’s what [Conway] seems to be advocating here,” she said. This is something the working group established by Gates to look at repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should address up front, Donnelly said.

In no time flat, The Palm Center sent out a release with other generals with common sense, noting that there would be more disturbance of unit cohesion with a clearly homophobic move like this.

Richard H. Kohn, a prominent military historian who was faculty at the Army and National War Colleges, and was Chief of Air Force History for the U.S. Air Force, said that “segregating Marines, as Gen. Conway envisions, might undermine the very cohesion he and other opponents of change say they are trying to protect.” Kohn said that “the proper response to a question on the issue is to defer any statement until the Ham-Johnson group reports,” referring to the year-long Pentagon Working Group. Kohn is currently Professor of History and Adjunct Professor of Peace, War, and Defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Retired Marine General Carl Mundy, one of Conway’s predecessors as Commandant of the U.S Marine Corps, opposes openly gay service, but recently said that if repeal is going to happen, “the easiest way to deal with it is to make it as simple as possible. The last thing you even want to think about is creating separate facilities or separate groups or separate meeting places or having four kinds of showers – one of straight women, lesbians, straight men and gay men. That would be absolutely disastrous in the armed forces. It would destroy any sense of cohesion or teamwork or good order and discipline.”

Other top generals have noted that uniformity is what’s needed for this policy change, and that divided leadership and separate rules or facilities will make the transition harder, not easier. In a 2009 op-ed in the Washington Post, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, said mixed messages from leadership could be toxic, and that it was crucial for top leaders to communicate consistent signals that the force is capable of carrying out new orders. “Given the inevitability of change,” he wrote, “it will be important for senior leaders to send clear signals of support to the rank and file. Every general officer knows that mixed signals undermine leadership. Indeed, studies show that when organizations implement controversial change, signals from the top must be clear.” Gen. Shalikashvili wrote that when senior officers oppose the inevitable, their messages “could cause the very disruptions they predict.”

…Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow at the Palm Center, said Conway’s plan is inconsistent with research on gays in the military. “Decades of research, including all of the conclusions of the 1993 RAND study, shows that separating gays and straights is a bad idea,” he said. “RAND found that creating policies that are applied only to one group of people or to accommodate the prejudices of another group of people only undercut the larger mission of a unified, integrated force.”


* General Conway’s DADT Comments “Off Base & Out of Line”

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding