Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday an immediate implementation of a more “humane” implementation of “don't ask, don't tell,” the 1993 law that forbids gay troops from serving openly, the Washington Post reported.

Under the new guidelines only a general or admiral could approve the firing of enlisted personnel who violate the ban, an anonymous compliant will no longer open an investigation into the sexual orientation of service members and third party testimony would be required to be made under oath.

Gates first suggest a review of the policy last June, a day after President Obama reaffirmed his pledge to repeal the law. He told reporters that the Pentagon was looking into ways to make its ban “more humane.”

In February testimony before Michigan Senator Carl Levin's Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates announced the Pentagon would soften the rules while lawmakers consider repeal.

“We believe that we have a degree of latitude within the existing law to change our internal procedures in a manner that is more appropriate and fair to our men and women in uniform,” he said.

Gates has also ordered a study on how best to implement changes should Congress repeal the law. General Carter F. Ham, the commander of the US Army, and the Pentagon's chief legal counsel, Jeh C. Johnson, have been assigned the task and are expected to deliver their recommendations by Dec. 1.

Softening the policy is expected to give Obama political cover should Congress fail to repeal the law.

Both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation to repeal the law. However, lawmakers have already suggested they won't press for a vote on a stand-alone bill, opting instead to tuck the legislation inside a must-pass fiscal year 2011 defense reauthorization bill in the fall.

But even that plan has come into question. Last week, openly gay Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank said the Obama administration remains “ambiguous” about whether it backs repeal of the policy this year. Frank said the uncertainty “has allowed some to interpret Secretary Gates' argument for a delay in implementation as a delay in adopting the legislation.”

Arizona Senator John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Republican, and Missouri Representative Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, lead strong Republican opposition to repeal of the law.