Rep. Gary Ackerman's criticism of Pentagon policy came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Ackerman, a New York City Democrat, complained to Rice that the military had fired Arabic and Farsi translators after learning the translators were homosexuals.
"For some reason, the military seems more afraid of gay people than they are against terrorists. They're very brave with the terrorists, and if the terrorists ever got ahold of this information, they get a platoon of lesbians to chase us out of Baghdad," said Ackerman, prompting laughter in the hearing room.
The lawmaker, who in 2002 voted for the invasion of Iraq but is now a fierce opponent of the war, made one other crack, too, this time in reference to the Bush administration's opposition to gay marriage.
Ackerman suggested the State Department could hire dozens of outed — and ousted — former military translators.
"Can we marry up these two — or maybe that's not the right word. ... Can we have some kind of union of those two issues?" Ackerman asked, prompting a fresh outburst of laughter.
Rice, in diplomatic fashion, played it cool.
"Congressman, I'm not aware of the availability of people, but I will certainly look," she said, adding that her department has quadrupled the number of employees in critical languages.
A Washington-based gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, said Ackerman was right to criticize the military's policy of "don't ask, don't tell" concerning gays.
"It is clear the congressman was underscoring the ridiculousness of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy and how it's hurting our efforts to fight the war on terror," said HRC spokesman Luis Vizcaino.