Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Not Every Marine into the Fight After All

February 26, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Marine Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, became the first military service chief — or any flag officer, for that matter, so far — to oppose repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday.

“My personal opinion is that unless we can strip away the emotion, agenda and politics and ask [whether] we somehow enhance the war-fighting of the United States Marine Corps by allowing homosexuals to openly serve, then we haven’t addressed it from the correct perspective,” Conway said.

Conway is implicitly assuming that the interests of the Corps and the interests of gays and lesbians are two different things. But there are, in fact, gay Marines. In early 2007, Gen. Conway famously sent a memo, known as the ‘Every Marine Into The Fight’ memo, to the Corps, instructing them that it was his expectation for every Marine seek a combat deployment. His testimony sends the message that some Marines are more valued than others — not for their combat prowess but for their identity. I’m having trouble finding a full transcript of the hearing, but none of the reports about it indicate that Conway made an argument for why repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ would reduce combat readiness, something that has not happened in any military where open gay service is permitted, as Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, indicated to CNN earlier this week.