Romney Military Adviser Wanted Separate Housing for Gay Troops

A military adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recommended housing servicemembers separately on the basis of sexual orientation. 

“I would not ask our Marines to live with someone that’s homosexual if we can possibly avoid it,” then Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway told in March of 2010. Conway, who retired in 2010, was among the big names listed on Romney’s Military Advisory Council, whose members were released by the Romney campaign on Wednesday. Conway cited the growing national debt and a desire to protect military spending as his reason for backing Romney. 

Conway, a vocal opponent of repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy before and after he was succeeded by Gen. James Amos as Marine Commandant, elaborated on his logic in a press briefing at the Pentagon in August of 2010. “[W]e recruit a certain type of young American, pretty macho guy or gal, that is willing to go fight and perhaps die for their country,” Conway said. “We sometimes ask Marines, you know, what is—what is their preference. And I can tell you that an overwhelming majority would like not to be roomed with a person who is openly homosexual.”

The Pentagon’s report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal did find higher levels of opposition among Marine combat arms units, who predicted a negative impact from allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. Fifty-eight percent of those serving Marine combat arms units thought the policy would cause problems. But when asked about their actual experience of serving with comrades they believed to be gay or lesbian, the overwhelming majority of those servicemembers, 84 percent, said their ability to work together was “good,” “very good,” or “neither good nor poor.” Last month a study by the pro-gay rights Palm Center found no negative impact on morale, unit cohesion, or readiness from DADT repeal. Conway’s successor, Gen. Amos, who at first also opposed repealing the policy, said last year that implementing repeal had been a “non-event.”

Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hasn’t meant full equality for gay and lesbian military families, however. Federal law prohibits those families from receiving the same benefits as heterosexual ones. With Romney taking on people like Conway as military advisers, it’s doubtful he’ll see that as a problem.