WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps' commandant said he won't force his troops to bunk with gays on base and would give them separate rooms if Congress votes to allow openly gay service.
The comment, by Gen. James Conway, is the latest pushback by a small but vocal faction of senior military leaders opposed to a repeal of the 1993 law known as "don't ask, don't tell."
President Barack Obama says the ban is unfair, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has launched a lengthy study to determine how to allow gays to serve openly without hurting military effectiveness.
Among the questions to be answered is whether changes to housing policies would even be necessary.
Conway, a known opponent of repealing the law, suggested in an interview published Friday by Military.com that he already knows it would be a logistical hurdle. On base, Marines typically bunk two-to-a-room.
"I would not ask our Marines to live with someone who is homosexual if we can possibly avoid it," he said.
"And to me that means we have to build BEQs (bachelor enlisted quarters) and have single rooms," he said.
Conway's remarks foreshadow the rocky political debate ahead. Gates has asked lawmakers to keep troops "out of the political dimension" of the issue, but some uniformed officers are willingly jumping in.
Earlier this month, a three-star Army general called on troops and their families to "speak up" against allowing gays to serve openly.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, who heads Army forces for U.S. Pacific Command, was publicly admonished by Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen for using his rank to advocate a political position and challenge the president.
"There's an opportunity in this process for everyone from junior to senior" to have an opportunity to comment, Mullen said.
Mullen added that military personnel disagreeing with the nation's policies should "vote with your feet."