Lawyers for the head of the US military have advised that the ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces should not be lifted yet.

A memo from the in-house counsel for Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “now is not the time” for the ban to be repealed.

The memo, obtained by Associated Press, added that “stress” on the service and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan meant that the decision should be delayed until 2011.

But it said that the law will change in time, in keeping with a change of opinion.

This means Congress may not have chance to consider the issue until the middle of the next expected general election in 2012.

The New York Times reported that segregation for openly gay soldiers was being considered.

A military official said the Pentagon was considering the “practical implications” of a ban being lifted, such as separate showers and locker rooms for gay servicemembers.

Other officials, speaking anonymously, told the US media that other advisors believed lifting the ban would not harm military cohesion.

Admiral Mullen’s spokesman would not discuss the memo or reveal his views on repeal. But he added that discussions were continuing and cited US President Barack Obama’s “strategic intent” for repeal.

The 1993 law allows gay men and women to serve in the military so long as they do not reveal their sexual orientation. It is thought that 13,000 have been fired after revealing their sexual orientation or being outed by someone else.

Obama pledged to repeal it in his election campaign, but has been criticised for being slow to act.