US defence secretary says progress on gay ban could come this month

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US defence secretary Robert Gates says he sees no bar to repealing the military gay ban and could endorse the change at the end of this month.

Speaking to Associated Press, Mr Gates said he will back progress if the chiefs of the military recommend moving forward at the end of this month.

Mr Gates is to leave his post on June 30th, after four and a half years as Pentagon chief.

Discussing the repeal process, he said: “I think people are pretty satisfied with the way this process is going forward. I think people have been mildly and pleasantly surprised at the lack of pushback in the training.”

But he added that it would be “unrealistic” to expect that there would be no anti-gay incidents when repeal takes place.

Mr Gates said that the ban could be fully lifted by September.

President Obama pledged to repeal the 1993 law in his 2008 election campaign but was criticised by gay groups for being slow to act.

In December, the US Senate finally voted to repeal the 17-year ban.

Military officials are currently training troops on the change. Then, the president, Mr Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm Mike Mullen must certify that the ban can be lifted without damaging the military.

Following this certification, 60 days must pass before repeal officially takes place.