A retired army general who is leading the campaign against allowing gays to serve openly in the US military has warned of “mass resignations” if Section 654 of US Code Title 10 is repealed.

The section bans openly gay and lesbian individuals from serving in the military.

Writing in the Concord Monitor, James L Lindsay argued that “grave harm” would be caused to the US defence service if the law were to be changed.

Mr Lindsay cited a survey by the Military Times which suggested ten per cent of subscribers said they would not re-enlist if the gay ban was repealed and 14 percent said they would consider leaving.

He estimates that even if the lesser number were to leave, the military would lose 228,600 service members.

Mr Lindsay wrote: “We don’t need a study commission to know that tensions are inevitable in conditions offering little or no privacy, increasing the stress of daily military life.

“‘Zero tolerance’ of dissent would become official intolerance of anyone who disagrees with this policy, forcing additional thousands to leave the service by denying them promotions or punishing them in other ways.

“Many more will be dissuaded from ever enlisting. There is no compelling national security reason for running these risks to our armed forces.”

He concluded: “Everyone can serve America in some way, but there is no constitutional right to serve in the military.”

Last month, a letter written by Mr Lindsay and another retired general, Carl Stiner, urging President Barack Obama to preserve the gay ban was leaked to the Palm Center, a research institute at the University of California.

In it, they wrote: “We believe that imposing this burden on our men and women in uniform would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all echelons, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.”

Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy regarding gay and lesbian service members is unlikely to be changed any time soon.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, he said: “The president and I feel like we’ve got a lot on our plates right now and let’s push that one down the road a little bit.”

“It continues to be the law and any change in policy would require a change in the law,” Gates said. “We will follow the law, whatever it is.

“That dialogue, though, has really not progressed very far at this point in the administration,” he added.

In January, Obama’s press secretary said the administration was planning to end the gay ban.

Responding to a question on whether the administration would repeal the policy, he said: “You don’t hear a politician give a one-word answer much, but it’s ‘Yes.'”