WASHINGTON - Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday said gay soldiers should be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appearing with Mullen before the Armed Services Committee, announced plans to loosen enforcement rules involving the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that has been in effect since 1993.

President Barack Obama has in the past called for the policy to be repealed and reiterated his stance during his State of the Union address.

"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," Obama said. "It's the right thing to do."

AP wire services were used in this report.