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In another blow to the bill, Mr. Obama’s pick to lead the Marine Corps told a Senate panel on Tuesday that he worried that changing the policy would serve as a “distraction” to Marines fighting in Afghanistan.

“My primary concern with proposed repeal is the potential disruption to cohesion that may be caused by significant change during a period of extended combat operations,” Gen. James Amos said in a written statement provided to the panel for his confirmation hearing.

During one exchange with Sen. Pete Sessions, Alabama Republican, Gen. Amos said he would implement any changes in the law on gay service made by Congress. He said that the Marine Corps would rely on discipline and leadership to ensure order, but that he didn’t envision a gag order on troops who disagreed with revoking the ban.

Some Republicans have suggested they fear troops who openly oppose gay service would be punished for speaking out.

“I don’t see this as a racist issue,” Gen. Amos said. “I see this as an anxious issue .  .. because we don’t have the answers yet.”