MANAMA, Bahrain – Marine Gen. James F. Amos, the face of opposition in the military to lifting the ban on gays serving openly, now acknowledges his concern that repeal would undermine the war effort has proven unfounded. In fact, he says, Marines have embraced the change.
In an Associated Press interview, Amos called the repeal in September “a non-event.”
That is in contrast to his cautionary words to Congress in December 2010, shortly before President Barack Obama signed the repeal legislation. The ban was not lifted until this year to allow the Pentagon to prepare troops for the change.
“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 on preparing units for combat,” Amos testified. Still, he said at the time that if the law were changed, it would be faithfully followed by Marines.
He now sees no sign of disruption in the ranks – even on the front lines.
“I’m very pleased with how it has gone,” Amos said during a weeklong trip that included four days in Afghanistan, where he heard nary a word of worry about gays. During give-and-take sessions with Marines serving on in Helmand province, he was asked about a range of issues, including the future of the Corps – but not one about gays.
The Associated Press accompanied Amos on the trip.
Looking back, Amos said he had no regrets about publicly opposing repeal during wartime. He said he had felt obliged, as commandant of the Corps, to set aside his personal opinions and represent the views of the 56 percent of combat Marines who told a Defense Department survey last year that repeal could make them less effective and cohesive in combat.
“I think I did exactly what I should have done,” Amos said. “I’ve never looked back on it and said it (his concern) was misplaced.”
Not only did Amos hear no talk about the repeal’s impact during his visit to Afghanistan, the subject also did not arise when he fielded questions from Marines on board the USS Bataan warship in the Gulf of Aden on Saturday.
In Bahrain on Sunday, a Marine asked Amos whether he planned to change the Marines’ policy of letting local commanders decide how to handle complaints about “homosexual remarks or actions.” Amos said no.