More than 1,000 retired military officers are urging President Obama to maintain the military's ban on open gay service.

Obama has said he favors repeal of the so-called “don't ask, don't tell” law that prescribes discharge for gay and lesbian service members who do not remain silent about their sexuality or celibate.

A pledge to end the ban can be found at the administration's official website ( “President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy.”

And the Obama administration issued a statement last month that it was discussing repeal of the gay ban with top Pentagon brass. White House Spokesman Tommy Vietor said the president has “begun consulting with Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen so that this change is done in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and national security.”

The retired officers came out against the law in a statement released Tuesday. They argued that repeal “would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer force.”

“We believe firmly that this law, which Congress passed to protect good order, discipline, and morale in the unique environment of the armed forces, deserves continued support,” the retired officers wrote.

“We just see a great many downsides to attempting to enforce on the military something I don't know is widely accepted in American society,” General Carl E. Mundy, Jr., a former commander of the Marine Corps and a signatory to the statement, told The Associated Press.

Despite Obama's public endorsement of repeal, his Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that there has been little progress on the issue.

Wallace asked Gates why there is money in the 2010 budget to enforce “don't ask, don't tell.”

Gates answered that it “continues to be the law.”

“We will follow that law, whatever it is,” Gates said. “That dialog 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.”

Groups opposing the gay ban criticized the new effort.

“The signers of this petition are mired in the fears and politics of the past,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in a statement. “More than 75 percent of the American public, including most younger service members as well as many active duty flag officers, realize the question is not if 'don't ask, don't tell' is repealed, but when and how.”

“The most important factor in lifting a gay ban is a clear signal from senior leadership,” said Dr. Nathaniel Frank, a senior research fellow at the Palm Center and author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America. “Everyone knows it's just a matter of time before the gay ban falls, so for officers to come out and say 'gays are a threat to the military' could cause the very problems that they ostensibly fear.”

The military discharged eleven gay soldiers in January. The figure was released by Virginia Rep. Jim Moran's office. Moran, a long-time opponent of the military gay ban and a member of the Military Appropriations subcommittee, is a co-sponsor of California Rep. Ellen Tauscher's Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a bill currently in Congress that would repeal the ban.