General James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, testified Wednesday that he opposes repeal of “don't ask, don't tell,” the 1993 law that prescribes discharge for gay troops who do not remain celibate or closeted, the Washington Post reported.

Conway advised Michigan Senator Carl Levin's Senate Armed Services Committee to keep the ban in place.

“I think the current policy works,” he said. “My best military advice to this committee, to the secretary, to the president would be to keep the law such as it is.”

Conway's testimony runs counter to that of top Pentagon leaders and President Obama, who have publicly acknowledged their support for repeal of the ban.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the same committee earlier in the month that the military would conduct a year-long study on how best to implement repeal should Congress overturn the law and urged Congress to do so. During that same session, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed.

“It is my personal and professional belief that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” Mullen said. “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

Military service chiefs, however, are clearly not on board.

General George Casey, the Army chief of staff, told the committee Tuesday that he would withhold judgment on repeal until Gate's study is completed, but added that he has “serious concerns” about how repeal would impact the armed forces.

Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwatz said Tuesday that he also supports waiting for the review before proceeding.

“This is not the time to perturb the force … without careful deliberations,” Schwatz said.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a gay group that lobbies for repeal of the law, called Tuesday's testimony “differences around the margin,” adding that his group remained optimistic that the service chiefs “will work within the framework the Pentagon has laid out.”

Conway also said he supports Gate's study, but suggested gay rights would ultimately need to take a back seat to national security.

“That's what they have been built to do under the current construct and I would argue that we've done a pretty good job bringing that to pass,” he said. “My concern would be that somehow that central purpose or focus were to become secondary to the discussion.”

The service chiefs' remarks are at odds with a Palm Center study released Tuesday that argues for swift repeal of the law.

“This study shows that we already have an enormous amount of information to guide this process, and suggests that another year of analysis, or a years-long implementation process, may be unnecessary,” Nathaniel Frank, the principal author of the study, told On Top Magazine Monday in an email.

The study, Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer, is the largest-ever to look at how 25 foreign militaries integrated gay troops and concludes that quick implementation is key to success.

“Swift, decisive implementation signals the support of top leadership and confidence that the process will go smoothly, while a 'phased-in' implementation can create anxiety, confusion and obstructionism,” the report says.