The U.S. Marine Corps has begun nightly "courtesy patrols" near the Equus bar and restaurant, 639 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, to help prevent confrontations between homosexuals, who frequent the gay Capitol Hill club, and Marines who are stationed nearby.

"We are trying to react in a positive way to a two-sided problem," explained Sgt. John Tolarchyk, a spokesman for the Marine Barracks at 8th and I streets SE, a few blocks from the gay club. About 1,000 Marines are stationed there.

The Equus, which opened in April 1980, has been the scene of several clashes between homosexuals and Marines. Last June, two Marines pleaded guilty to tossing smoke and tear gas canisters into the club. A year ago, D.C. police dispersed a mob of more than 100 persons, mostly Marines, who were chanting antihomosexual slogans outside the club. During that incident, one of the club's owners was punched and several windows at the Equus were broken.

Some Marines claim homosexuals in the area whistle at them and ask them for dates. Some homosexuals say Marines harass them.

"The patrols will help Marines with problems. We also will help if the Marine is the problem," Tolarchyk said. "Marines like to take care of their own. If we have a problem, we don't want the police to have to get involved." He said the patrols began two weeks ago and, so far, have not been involved in any incidents.

There are two Marines on each of the two patrol teams sent out each night at dusk, Tolarchyk said. The unarmed patrols, which stay out until 2 a.m., are authorized to arrest Marines. They patrol a six-block area from the Marine Barracks to the corner of 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.