Marine general says service must comply with lifting ban on gays

Official stresses that it is the corps’ duty to uphold the law.

Despite his opposition to repealing the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" law, Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, is urging his force to adapt to the end of the ban on openly gay individuals serving in the military.

"I want to be clear to all Marines: We will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new law," Amos says in a January 28 video circulated throughout the service. "It's important that we value the diversity of background, culture, and skills that all Marines bring to the service of our nation."

In the video, which is posted on the service's website and also includes comments from Sgt. Major Carlton Kent, Amos stresses that it is the corps' duty to uphold the law.

"The Marine Corps exists to defend our nation. We are a nation of laws," Amos says. "We are committed through our oath and core values to abide by these laws."

Amos and Kent also repeated that implementing the repeal will require leadership, professionalism, discipline and respect.

"Our success as Marines has always been grounded in the quality of our leadership, from general officers to small-unit leaders," Amos said.

During congressional consideration of the repeal last year, Amos was the most vocal of the service chiefs in opposition to overturning the 18-year-old law, asserting that doing so could hurt Marines' combat readiness during wartime.

"If the law is changed, successfully implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small-unit level, as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat," Amos said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on December 3.

Despite the objections from Amos and some other senior military officials, Congress approved the repeal as a stand-alone bill late last year, but delayed implementation to enable the military to make policy changes and train the force. The ban will not be formally lifted until 60 days after the Pentagon and White House certify that repealing the law will not hurt troop morale, military cohesion, or unit readiness.

The Marine Corps released Amos's video the same day the Pentagon announced its policy governing the treatment of openly gay troops, stating that the military has zero tolerance for hazing or harassment but stopping short of revising medical and other benefits to cover same-sex partners.

Pentagon officials, who believe they can implement the repeal this year, expect the services to begin training in February.