Just as the formal repeal of the military's “don't ask, don't tell” policy took effect, Navy Lt. Gary Ross and his partner were married before a small group of family and friends. The two men, who'd been together 11 years, decided to marry in Vermont in part because the state is in the Eastern time zone.

That way, they were able to recite their vows at the stroke of midnight at the first possible moment after the ban ended. “I think it was a beautiful ceremony. The emotions really hit me...but it's finally official,” said Mr. Ross early on Tuesday.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said on Monday the military is prepared for the end of “don't ask, don't tell,” a practice adopted in 1993 that allowed gays to serve as long as they did not openly acknowledge their sexual orientation. Commanders were not allowed to ask.

Last week, the Pentagon said 97 per cent of the military has undergone training in the new law.

Mr. Ross (33), and Dan Swezy, a 49-year-old civilian, travelled from their home in Tucson, Arizona, so they could get married in Vermont, the first state to allow gays to enter into civil unions and one of six that have legalised same-sex marriage.

Mr. Ross wore his dress uniform for the double-ring ceremony that began at 11-45 p.m. on Monday at Duxbury's Moose Meadow Lodge, a log cabin bed-and-breakfast perched on a hillside about 25 km northwest of Montpelier. The lodge says it hosted the state's first gay wedding in 2009.

Justice of the Peace Greg Trulson proclaimed the marriage at exactly midnight.

“This is Gary's official coming out,” said Mr. Trulson.

Mr. Ross and Mr. Swezy were joined by close friends and some family members who shared champagne and congratulations with them after the ceremony.

Mr. Ross said he plans on having a full career in the military. “We're thrilled the policy is gone,” he said of his and Mr. Swezy's reaction to the end of “don't ask, don't tell.”

In preparation for Tuesday's repeal, all branches of the military have spent several months updating regulations. Lifting the ban also brings a halt to all pending investigations, discharges and other proceedings that were begun under the old law.

There will be no immediate changes to eligibility for military benefits.

All service members are already entitled to certain benefits, such as designating a partner as a life insurance beneficiary or as a caregiver in the Wounded Warrior programme. But Mr. Swezy won't receive military health insurance or access to a support group when Mr. Ross is at sea. — AP

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