Military leaders asked a Senate committee on Friday for more time before repealing the "don't ask, don't tell," policy barring gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military, saying that current military operations would be disrupted if the repeal is enacted now.
Heads of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy suggested to the Senate Armed Services Committee that an immediate repeal of DADT would have higher repercussions on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan than expected.
"I would not recommend going forward at this time given everything the Army has on its plate," said Army General George Casey.
Air Force chief Gen. Norton Schwartz noted that the risk of a repeal would be "moderate," and suggested delaying the action until 2012 to allow for a period of education and training.
"It is difficult for me, as a member of the Joint Chiefs, to recommend placing any additional discretionary demands on our leadership cadres in Afghanistan at this particularly challenging time," Schwartz said.
The chiefs' remarks come in spite of findings in a report released on Tuesday by the Pentagon which showed that nearly 70 percent of American troops have no problem with serving alongside openly gay soldiers.
The American public shares a similar opinion, according to a study conducted in November by the Pew Research Center, which showed that nearly 60 percent of Americans are in favor of repealing DADT.
The study further showed that the level of support for allowing gays to openly serve has remained consistent among Americans since 2005 and is up about 7 percent since July 1994 when President Bill Clinton first introduced DADT.
At that time, support among Americans for allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military was at 52 percent while 45 percent of Americans opposed the idea.
The latest survey shows that only 27 percent of Americans oppose allowing gays to openly serve.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are fighting to gain Republican support in order to pass a DADT repeal before losing their majority position in January.
Republican Senator Scott Brown, a former serviceman, said on Friday that it "never mattered" to him whether his fellow soldiers were gay or straight, and that he pledges to "keep an open mind" about the present policy.