Arizona Senator John McCain says the military ban on open gay service is not a civil rights issue.

“No. No, I don't,” McCain answered when asked “Do you see it as some have put it as a civil rights issue?”

“As Colin Powell said when 'don't ask, don't tell' was first inaugurated, there's a difference between sexual preference and the color of one's skin. That was General Powell's statement,” he added.

While McCain acknowledged that Powell has since come out in support of repeal of “don't ask, don't tell,” the law that prescribes discharge for gay troops who do not remain celibate or closeted, he added: “I don't think he views it now as a civil rights issue, though.”

The 73-year-old McCain made his remarks during a wide-ranging interview in the Arizona Daily Star.

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said he believes the policy is working and should remain.

When asked if he had sought out the opinion of gay troops in making his conclusion, McCain answered that that would be “nuts.”

“I make that determination by retention and recruitment is at an all-time high, the highest in the history of the all-volunteer force,” he said. “I get that opinion because I visit with the troops all the time. I go to Iraq, I go to Afghanistan, I run into them everywhere. And of course I don't seek out someone who is gay. Why should I? These are all men and women who are serving. Why should I, that would be nuts.”

McCain also stated his support for a review of the ban: “I'm not going to deal and hypotheticals as to what would come out. But the fact is that I want to review and then I will make a decision from there. I don't know what the review will say, I don't know what they will be about. And I just have to tell you that I engage in a lot of hypotheticals.”

“But I'm convinced that it is working and has worked well,” he added.