WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon, ahead of any repeal of the U.S. military's ban on gays in its ranks, will likely announce steps this week that may soften the blow on homosexuals affected by the "don't ask, don't tell" law.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to address ways to allow more "humane enforcement and application" of a policy that has seen thousands of homosexuals forced out of the military, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
"I think he is prepared to offer a way ahead on that subject this week. So stay tuned," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.
"Hopefully you'll be seeing him later this week and (he) can address the changes that he is going to be making."
The long-expected announcement follows a 45-day review ordered by Gates, which was completed earlier this month.
One of the ways the Pentagon might relax enforcement of the law could be to halt disciplinary proceedings against gay members of the military who are "outed" by others.
But the Pentagon has been tight-lipped about what steps Gates might announce.
President Barack Obama has called for a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which allows homosexuals to serve in secret but discharges them if their sexual orientation becomes known.
Gates has supported Obama's push but called for a separate review, due to be completed by December 1, on how to implement the new policy down the road.
The Pentagon has roundly opposed efforts advocated by some lawmakers to implement a moratorium or an outright repeal before the review is completed.
While the top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, has supported a repeal, several prominent officers and lawmakers have questioned lifting the ban at a time when the U.S. military is stretched by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Americans favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military by 57 percent to 36 percent, according to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University.
Editing by John O'Callaghan