Three retired colonels and four captains in the United States military have publicly declared their homosexuality in a gay magazine and spoken out against the policy that bans LGB Americans from serving.

The former officers, among them a chaplain and two female Navy Reservists, decided to come out in protest at comments from the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Last month General Peter Pace called lesbian, gay and bisexual service members “immoral” and reiterated his support for the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members.

The policy 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.

Findings from a survey of LGB veterans suggest that this policy causes many of them to decide not to re-enlist and continue their service when they reach the end of their tours of duty or, in the case of officers, resign their commissions at the end of their obligated service.

Since the initiation of the DADT policy in 1994, an average of nearly 4,000 LGB military personnel each year on active duty or in the guard or reserves would have been retained if they could have been more open about their sexual orientation.

The estimate for the annual retention of LGB people has generally declined over time due to fewer discharges under the DADT policy coupled with fewer separations.

A survey of 445 LGB veterans found that when asked about why they left the military, 19.6 percent said that it was because they could not be open about their sexual orientation.

The seven retired officers appeared in The Advocate and called on the general to apologise and on the US Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask Dont’ Tell.”

“Servicemembers Legal Defence Network salutes the service, courage and patriotism of each of these seven officers,” said C. Dixon Osburn, the group’s executive director.

“They are proof that lesbian, gay and bisexual service members not only serve their country, but serve their country well, regardless of sexual orientation.

“It is time to thank all our men and women in uniform for their service to our nation. It is time to lift the ban.”

Each of the highly-decorated officers has served at least 20 years; several have served 30 years or more. They have earned numerous awards, honours and commendations during their careers. Four served in the Vietnam War.