Arizona Senator John McCain on Thursday rejected the advice of top military leaders who have endorsed repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”

The highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee remained committed during a Senate hearing to the law that bans gay and bisexual troops from serving openly.

McCain cited a Pentagon survey which found that 58 percent of Marines in combat units and 48 percent of Army combat troops thought allowing open gay service would have either a negative or a very negative impact on their unit's effectiveness.

“I remain concerned, as I have in the past, and as demonstrated in this study, that the closer we get to service members in combat, the more we encounter concerns about whether 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' should be repealed,” he said. “These views should not be considered lightly especially considering how much combat our forces face.”

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has previously urged Congress to end the ban, replied that combat soldiers have limited experience in the military.

“With time and adequate preparation, we can mitigate their concerns,” Gates said.

McCain, who earlier this week joined Senate Republicans in threatening to block any legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts are dealt with, replied that he “couldn't disagree more.”

“We send these young people into combat, we think they're mature enough to fight and die. I think they're mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve with and the impact on their battle effectiveness.”

McCain insisted that the report was flawed because it had not asked troops if the law should be repealed, a question Gates has previously rejected.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also shook off concerns about serving alongside openly gay troops.

“I've been serving with gays and lesbians my whole career. I went to war with them aboard a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam. I knew they were there. They knew I knew it. We never missed a mission, never failed to deliver ordnance on target.”

Mullen added that the military would cope with service members who disagree with repeal.

“Should repeal occur, some soldiers and Marines may want separate showers facilities … Some may even quit the service. We'll deal with that.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group lobbying for repeal of the 17-year-old law, said McCain had grown “out of touch” with top military leaders.

“As witnessed in today's hearing, McCain is growing more and more out of touch with the military's top leadership as well as a majority of the force. It is now painfully transparent that for McCain, it's all politics,” Sarvis said.

Committee members will hear from military service chiefs on Friday.