A Democratic US Senator who was one of the main opponents against the now repealed ban on gay and lesbian people serving openly in the military, has now set her sights on tackling the way sexual assaults are handled in the military.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was one of the most vocal opponents of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which was repealed in 2011, wants to challenge the way sexual assaults are handled in the military.

The New York Democrat wants to remove the responsibility from commanders to decide how to handle sexual assaults, and instead leave it to military lawyers.

The military maintains, however, that the commanders should maintain their right to keep order in their own ranks.

Efforts by Gillibrand have divided the US Senate, and could come to blows later in the summer when a new defence policy is discussed.

Between 21 December 1993 and 20 September 2011, lesbian and gay military service members were banned from serving openly under the policy. Service members who violated the policy were discharged.