A spokesperson for US President-elect Barack Obama has said that no decisions had been made about the strategy or timing of an attempt to end the ban on openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people serving in the country’s Armed Forces.
The Washington Post reported last week that it could be as late as 2010, but the transition team spokesperson said: “These decisions will not be made before the full national security team is in place.”
For at least the first year of the new administration the Secretary of Defence will be the present incumbent, Richard Gates.
Congressman Barney Frank, who is gay, has said he thinks there will not be an attempt to overturn the ban until after US troops have pulled out of Iraq.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll published in July found that three-quarters of Americans think that openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people should be allowed to serve in the military.
64% of Republicans and nearly two thirds of self-described conservatives backed a change in the current law, as did 57% of white evangelical Protestants and 82% of white Catholics.
The poll of 1,119 Americans revealed that support for gays in the military has steadily increased, from 44% in 1993 to 62% in 2001 to 75% today.
It was Republican opposition that forced then-President Bill Clinton to abandon his pledge to allow gay people to serve and signed into law the compromise known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Since 1993 gay people who do not reveal their sexuality can serve, and commanding officers are not meant to ask service personnel about their sexual orientation.
More than 12,500 gay men and women have been discharged under the current law, at an estimated cost of more than $363 million (£182.6m).
The current policy prohibits anyone who “demonstrates a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” to serve in the US Armed Forces.
In May the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said that Congress, and not the military, is responsible for the ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service.
Speaking to graduating cadets at West Point military academy, Admiral Mike Mullen said that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a law that the Armed Forces follow.
“Should the law change, the military will carry that out too,” he said.
President-elect Barack Obama backs repeal.
In an interview with Gay History Project in September, he said he would not use the office of President to abolish it.
“I want to make sure that when we revert “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it’s gone through a process and we’ve built a consensus or at least a clarity of that, of what my expectations are, so that it works,” he said.
“My first obligation as the President is to make sure that I keep the American people safe and that our military is functioning effectively.
“Although I have consistently said I would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I believe that the way to do it is make sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be.
“That’s how we were able to integrate the Armed Services to get women more actively involved.
“At some point, [you've] got to make a decision that that’s the right thing to do, but you always want to make sure that you are doing it in a way that maintains our core mission in our military.”