Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced hope US lawmakers would lift the ban on gays serving openly in the military but said prospects were uncertain following mid-term elections.
"I'd like to see the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' but I'm not sure what the prospects for that are," Gates said when asked about the effect of Tuesday's vote on the ban. "And we'll just have to see," he told reporters aboard his plane Saturday, before arriving in Melbourne for security talks with Australia.
Republicans, who tend to oppose ending the ban, swept to victory in the vote, capturing a majority in the House of Representatives and making inroads in the Senate. The 1993 law, known as "don't ask, don't tell," bars gay troops from openly declaring their sexual orientation or else face expulsion.
President Barack Obama has called for scrapping the law and suggested the current Congress could take action in December once a Pentagon review of the issue is completed at the end of the month.
Newly-elected members of Congress are due to be sworn in the new year. Gates has stressed the need for an orderly process if the ban is lifted, and rejected criticism from activists that the Pentagon has moved too slowly on the issue.