Last year, 28 retired generals and admirals called for an end to the military's policy of banning gays and lesbians from serving openly. This year, that chorus has grown a bit louder with 104 officers agreeing that the gay ban must end, reports The Associated Press.

The military's gay ban is a Clinton-era compromise enacted in 1993 called “don't ask, don't tell.” Former President Bill Clinton forged the compromise to side-step a wall of military opposition to his pledge to end an all-out ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military. “Don't ask, don't tell” does allow gays to serve, but requires they remain closeted.

“As is the case with Great Britain, Israel, and other nations that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion, and sexuality. Such collaboration reflects the strength and the best traditions of our democracy,” the officers said in a joint statement.

President-elect Barack Obama has already signaled he would not take up the issue early on in his administration, but continues to express support for ending the military's gay ban on his transition website.

Responding to a series of gay-related questions during the presidential campaign from Mark Segal, publisher of the gay weekly Philadelphia Gay News, Obama said he would repeal the military's gay ban only after building consensus on the issue.

“I want to make sure that when we reverse “don't ask, don't tell” it's gone through a process and we've built a consensus or at least a clarity of what my expectations are so that it works. My first obligation as the president is to make sure that I keep the American people safe and that our military is functioning effectively,” Obama said in September. “Although I have consistently said I would repeal “don't ask, don't tell', I believe that the way to do it is make sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be.”

Obama compared his consensus-building approach to ending the gay ban to earlier efforts to integrate female service members.

“That's how we were able to integrate the armed services to get women more actively involved in the armed services,” Obama said.

Gay groups who have worked tirelessly to remove the prohibition were especially happy to see Retired Admiral Charles Larson, a four-star admiral and two-time superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, among the signatories.

Larson supported the gay ban in 1993, but said working closely with a number of gay colleagues and discussing the issue with his lesbian daughter had changed his view.

“I think the time has come to find a way to let talented, young, patriotic Americans who want to serve their country serve,” Admiral Larson said. Responding to proponents of the gay ban who say openly gay service members would “sexualize” the military, he said, “[L]et's enforce high standards for personal and human behavior for everyone.”