President Barack Obama’s promise to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is progressing slowly, as the administration has “a lot on our plates right now,” according to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

The policy, which was put in place after President Bill Clinton tried to lift the ban on gay service members in 1993, refers to the US military’s practice of not asking recruits their sexual orientation.

In turn, service members are banned from saying they are gay or bisexual, engaging in homosexual activity or trying to marry a member of the same sex.

Gates recently told Fox news that the president has opted to “push that one down the road a little bit.” However some effort has been made as Obama reportedly began consulting with Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on how to lift the ban.

Since 1993, 12,500 homosexual men and women have been discharged under the law. Recruiting replacements has cost the US government millions of dollars and more than 300 vitally-needed language experts have been fired under this policy.

Californian Representative Ellen Tauscher, who introduced legislation to end the “don’t ask” law in early March, wrote: “It makes no sense to discharge capable service members for something as irrelevant as their sexual orientation. It is time to allow the military to recruit and retain all of the qualified, talented individuals who wish to serve our country, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

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