updated 3/19/2007 1:07:27 PM ET 2007-03-19T17:07:27

Defense Secretary Robert Gates declined to say Sunday whether the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should apologize for his remark that homosexual acts were immoral or whether it was a slur on gay members of the armed forces.

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Marine Gen. Peter Pace made the remark last Monday in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. The next day, following criticism from several lawmakers and gay-rights groups, Pace said that he regretted having stated a personal opinion but did not apologize.

"I think General Pace has made pretty clear that he wished he had avoided his personal opinion," Gates said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. The secretary said he did not plan to ask Pace to do anything more in regard to the remark.

Asked if Pace's comment was a slur on members of the armed forces, Gates said: "I think I'll leave it at the fact that I don't think this is an issue where personal opinion has any place." As far as Pace apologizing, Gates said, "I think we should just move on from this point."

Gates said Pace was a man of enormous principle and integrity and tremendous skill. "I think the American people are lucky to have him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," he said.

In the newspaper interview, Pace said that while he supports the "don't ask, don't tell" policy allowing gays to serve in the military, he believes that "homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts."

"I do not believe that the armed forces of the United States are well served by saying through our policies that it's OK to be immoral in any way," he said.

Gates indicated that he was not reviewing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which President Clinton signed into law in 1994.

President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said Sunday he is not aware of any plans by the White House to review the policy. He told CNN's "Late Edition" that the policy allows all Americans to participate in the military, "and that's a good thing."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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