A leading Democrat in the US has said the country’s President should have ordered that a ban on openly gay people serving in the Armed Forces come to an end.

Robert Shrum, a Democratic party elder statesman, said that President Obama already should have issued an executive order on gay troops.

Obama could have maintained “credibility among gays,” Shrum said, “if he had issued a ‘stop-loss’ order ending the discharge of gay service members while allowing the Pentagon to proceed with a longer-term review of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. The President could have justified this on grounds of military need.”

The Centre for American Progress (CAP) has issued a five-step plan for repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” that begins with an executive order suspending gay discharges.

According to the report, “President Obama should issue an order prohibiting the Secretary of Defence… from establishing, implementing, or applying any personnel or administrative policies, or taking a personnel or administrative action, in whole or part on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The report says that this would “include banning further dismissals on the basis of DADT.”

The legal basis for issuing such an order derives from the President’s “stop-loss” authority.

Seventy-seven members of Congress stopped short of calling for an executive order in a letter to Obama this week, but urged the White House instead to issue a moratorium suspending gay discharges from the military.

The White House responded to the Congressional letter by reiterating the President’s commitment to legislative repeal at some future point rather than an immediate administrative suspension.

Aaron Belkin, Palm Center director, questioned the logic of that statement.

“The White House acts as if an executive order and legislative repeal are mutually exclusive options,” he said.

“The whole point of the executive order is that it untangles the political stalemate and paves the way for legislative repeal.”