US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday ruled out an imminent change in the "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy on gays in the military, saying President Barack Obama believes the Pentagon has "a lot on our plates right now."
Gates comments in an interview on Fox television were in response to an assertion by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in January that Obama would end the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military.
"We will follow the law, whatever it is," Gates said. "That dialogue, though, has really not progressed very far at this point in the administration."
"I think the president and I feel like we've got a lot on our plates right now, and let's push that one down the road a little bit," he said.
Former president Bill Clinton touched off a furore within the military at the outset of his administration by calling for an end to the ban.
The uproar forced him to fall back on a 1993 compromise -- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- under which gays could serve in the military so long as they did not acknowledge their homosexuality.