Gay rights groups have reacted with outrage to remarks by US General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling lesbian and gay personnel “immoral.”

In an interview with The Chicago Tribune, Pace said that, “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.”

He went on to reiterate his support for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bars openly gay and lesbian personnel from serving in the US armed forced, by saying that, “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.”

“General Pace’s comments are outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops now serving in our armed forces,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), in reaction to the General’s statements.

“Our men and women in uniform make tremendous sacrifices for our country, and deserve General Pace’s praise, not his condemnation. As a Marine and a military leader, General Pace knows that prejudice should not dictate policy. It is inappropriate for the Chairman to condemn those who serve our country because of his own personal bias. He should immediately apologise for his remarks,” said Osburn.

General Pace likened homosexuality to adultery, which he said was also immoral, The Tribune reported on its Web site. He also announced his opposition to Congressional legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Williams Project at the University of California-Los Angeles estimates at least 65,000 lesbian and gay Americans are currently serving on active duty and the reserves. Another 1 million gay Americans, the group has estimated, are veterans of the armed forces.

“Regardless of one’s opinion about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ every service member deserves respect,” said Osburn. “Secretary of Defence Gates should immediately condemn Pace’s remarks. Their apologies should be swift and sincere.”

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