(CNSNews.com) - "I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military," retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing on Thursday.
And in response to a different question from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mattis said, "I've never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with."
Mattis, Trump's pick for defense secretary, said his main concern is military readiness and force lethality.
"Senator, my belief is that we have to stay focused on a military that's so lethal that on the battle field it will be the enemy's longest day and their worst day when they run into that force," Mattis told Gillibrand.
"I believe that military service is a touchstone for patriots of whatever stripe. I mean that -- it's simply the way that they demonstrate their -- their commitment.
"And I believe that right now the policies that are in effect, unless a service chief brings something to me where there's been a problem that's been proven, then I'm not going in with a idea that I'm going to review these and -- and right away start rolling something back."
Gillibrand noted that after Mattis retired, he voiced objections to men and women serving together in combat and infantry positions. She quoted Mattis as saying in 2015, "When you mix affection for one another that could be manifested sexually, I don't care if you go anywhere in history, you will not find where this has worked, never has it worked."
"Have you changed your view on this issue?" Gillibrand asked Mattis.
"Senator, I was not in a position to go back into government when I made those statements. There are many policies that have been enacted over many years, including the years since I've been on active duty.
"I'm coming in with the understand that I lead the Department of Defense, and if someone brings me a problem then I'll look at it, but I'm not coming in looking for problems. I'm looking for a way to get the department so it's at the most lethal stance.
"And in that regard, it's all about military readiness. I'm looking for military readiness and -- and what we can do in that regard."
"Do you plan oppose women serving in these combat roles?" Gillibrand asked Mattis.
"I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military," Mattis responded. "In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women, serving in my 23,000 person Marine division. And this is 10 years before I retired, and I put them right into the front lines, alongside everyone else."
Gillibrand followed up: "So you no longer believe that eros is a problem when men and women are serving together?"
"I believe that if we are going to do -- execute policies like this, we had better train our leaders so they could handle all things that come from a policy that's decided (in this town). That's our responsibility, to train our young leaders who are going to be dealing with factors that perhaps, their fathers did not have to deal with."
Gillibrand then turned to homosexuality, asking Mattis, "Do you believe that allowing LGBT Americans to serve in the military or women in combat is undermining our lethality?"
"Frankly, Senator, I've never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with," Mattis replied.
"So the answer's no?" Gillibrand asked.
"Senator, my -- my concern is on the readiness of the force to fight and to make certain that it's at the top of its game so when we go up against an enemy, the criteria for everything we do in the military up until that point when we put our young men and women across the line of departure is, they will be at their most lethal stance.
"That's my obligation as I move into this job."
Later in the hearing, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), asked Mattis a yes or no question: "Is there something innate in being a woman or LGBT that would cause you to believe that they could not be part of a lethal force?"
"No," Mattis replied.