Gay groups have asked for the resignation of Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos for suggesting that soldiers might die if Congress repeals “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”

The nation's top Marine Corps officer said on Tuesday that he could not endorse repeal of the law that bans gay and bisexual troops from serving openly because the distraction might endanger the lives of Marines in combat.

“Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines lives,” he told the Pentagon's Stars and Stripes. “That's the currency of this fight.”

“I take that very, very seriously,” Amos added. “I don't want to lose any Marines to that distraction. I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the results of any type of distraction.”

In a brief statement released Tuesday, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group lobbying for repeal, called for Amos' ouster.

“General Amos needs to fall in line and salute or resign now,” Sarvis wrote.

In his hour-long interview with reporters, Amos said he concluded that repeal would be an unacceptable distraction after reading a Pentagon report on how to repeal the law. The report's survey of service members found that a large majority (70 percent) would be OK if Congress ended the law, but a majority (58%) of Marines serving in combat units opposed repeal.

“This was not a flippant, rush-right-in preparation,” Amos said. “This was a very, very deep, thoughtful – I read the report, the survey over and over again.”

Amos also objected to repeal before the report's public release.

In September, he said most Marines were opposed to repeal, and in an interview last month with the Los Angeles Times, he said his objections to repeal stem from the risk involved.

“There's a risk involved,” Amos, who assumed the helm in October from retiring General James Conway, said. “I'm trying to determine how to measure that risk. This is not a social thing. This is combat effectiveness.”