Former US secretary of state and joint chiefs of staff chairman Colin Powell has said the military gay ban should be reviewed.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union last night, the retired Army general said he had supported the policy when it was enacted, but now believed attitudes had changed.

He said: “The policy and the law that came about in 1993, I think, was correct for the time.

“Sixteen years have now gone by, and I think a lot has changed with respect to attitudes within our country, and therefore I think this is a policy and a law that should be reviewed.”

Current joint chiefs of staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said that US president Barack Obama clearly intended to change the law, as promised in his election campaign, but added: “I think we need to move in a measured way.”

Powell’s statement comes just after defence secretary Robert Gates revealed that lawyers are working on easing enforcement of the ban.

According to AFP, Gates told reporters on a plane to Europe: “One of the things we’re looking at is, is there flexibility in how we apply this law. We’re talking about how do we move forward on this, achieve this objective which is changing the policy.”

He added that the circumstances in which someone’s sexuality is revealed may be considered, saying those who are outed due to blackmail or revenge.

“If somebody is outed by a third party, does that force us to take action?” he said.

“That’s the kind of thing we’re looking at – seeing if there’s a more humane way to apply the law until it gets changed.”

In May, Lieutenant Dan Choi, the National Guard soldier who publicly came out live on national television, became the most high-profile victim of the controversial policy. He was told by a military court last week to leave service.

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ allows gay personnel to serve in the military as long as they do not reveal their sexual orientation.