Marine commander: We'd adjust to openly gay people in military

Conway has publicly voiced his opposition to administration and congressional efforts to repeal the Clinton-era law known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Conway told lawmakers earlier this year that he believed “the current policy works.”

The Marine Corps, in particular, recruits "pretty macho" young Americans, “an overwhelming majority” of whom have objections to sharing a room with an openly gay person, Conway said at a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday.

However, if the law changes, the Marines will need to implement it and cannot be seen as “dragging” its feet or “in some way delaying implementation,” Conway said.

“We pride our Corps in leading the services in many, many things, and we're going to have to lead in this, too,” he said. “We've got a war to fight, and we need to, if the law changes, implement and get on with it.”

Conway suggested the Marine Corps would consider separate living quarters for gay service members. If the ban is scrapped, the Marine Corps could make living arrangements voluntary to accommodate any moral concerns. Marines usually bunk in twos.

“Perhaps a voluntary basis might be the best way to start without violating anybody's sense of moral concern or a perception on the part of their mates,” Conway said.

But he cautioned that any suggestions are hypothetical at this point.

Congress is still debating whether to repeal the Clinton-era ban. The House has already passed legislation that would repeal the law, but the Senate has yet to vote on it. The Senate is expected to take it up in the 2011 defense authorization bill this September when it returns from summer recess.