Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday the Pentagon is looking into ways to make its ban on open gay service “more humane.”

Speaking aboard a military plane on its way to Germany Tuesday, Gates told reporters “one of the things we're looking at is, is there flexibility in how we apply this law.”

The military gay ban, known as “don't ask, don't tell,” prescribes discharge as the remedy for service members who do not remain closeted or celibate. But Gates suggested he disagreed with discharges in cases where service members were maliciously outed.

According to a transcript released by the Department of Defense, Gates said, “What we have is a law – be it a policy or regulation – and as I discovered when I got into it, it's a very prescriptive law. It doesn't leave much to the imagination for a lot of flexibility.”

Gates questioned the need to take action against service members when they've been outed out of vengeance or after being jilted.

“If someone is outed by a third party … does that force us to take an action?” he asked.

“That's the kind of thing we're looking at to see if there's a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed,” Gates added.

In April, Gates said altering the law was not under consideration. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Gates told Chris Wallace: “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.”

The Obama administration is facing increasingly louder demands from gay groups to end the 16-year-old law that candidate Obama promised to repeal. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that lobbies for repeal of the law, 275 service members have been discharged under Obama's watch.