One of America’s most senior army generals has come out in support of a total ban on gay men and women serving in the military.

Marine General Peter Pace described homosexual acts as “immoral” in the Chicago Tribune newspaper, likening them to adultery.

Gen Pace is the chairman of the US military Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He said that he backed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of dealing with gay servicemen.

He said: “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.”

“I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way.”

He went on to say: “As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behaviour] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behaviour.”

The general stated that his views were based on his upbringing and background.

The discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was made law in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton.

It states that commanders may not ask the sexual orientation of service members.

Gay men and lesbians can only continue to serve only if they do not engage in homosexual acts, and keep their sexual orientation a secret.

The bill was a compromise between hard-core Republicans who wanted a ban on gays in the military, and Bill Clinton, who along with many Democrats believed that serving your country is not incompatible with being open about your sexuality.

The Clinton camp asserted that the resulting compromise was not a question of morality, but of attaining cohesion within combat units.

Critics say that the bill is counterproductive, and that if the law were lifted the Pentagon would find it easier to maintain the dwindling forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton has long been an opponent of the law her husband established, and in the past has said that she think it should be repealed.

A recent poll done by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 58% of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military.

The percentage of those who strongly opposed allowing open service fell from 26% in 1994 to 15% in 2005, suggesting that Gen Pace is speaking out of turn with public opinion in America.

Britain’s armed forces have allowed gay men and women to serve openly since January 2000. The change in the UK was brought about by the June 1999 judgement of the European Court of Human Rights that found that not allowing gay men and women to serve was “inhumane.”