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Military Prepares as Don't Ask Don't Tell Law is Lifted Tuesday

Gays in Military_report

A report of a Pentagon survey on the issues associated with a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is seen on a table,at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, after Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen spoke to reporters on gays in the military. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (AP)

WASHINGTON -- The military has begun accepting applications from openly gay recruits but will not act on them until the legal ban on openly gay service is lifted Tuesday, says a Pentagon official.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said Monday that the military is adequately prepared for the end of the current policy, commonly known as "don't ask, don't tell," under which gays can serve as long as they don't openly acknowledge their sexual orientation and commanders are not allowed to ask.

"No one should be left with the impression that we are unprepared. We are prepared for repeal," Little said.

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

The ban will end at one minute after midnight. At that time, revised Defense Department regulations will take effect, to reflect the new law that will allow gays to serve openly.

In preparation for Tuesday's repeal, the military services have spent several months adjusting regulations to remove references to limitations on gay service. The lifting of the ban also will mean a halt to all pending investigations, discharges and other administrative proceedings that were begun under the "don't ask, don't tell" law.

Existing standards of personal conduct, such as those pertaining to public displays of affection, will continue regardless of sexual orientation.

There also will be no immediate changes to eligibility standards for military benefits. All service members already are entitled to certain benefits and entitlements, such as designating a partner as one's life insurance beneficiary or as designated caregiver in the Wounded Warrior program.

Gay marriage is one of the thornier issues. An initial move by the Navy earlier this year to train chaplains about same-sex civil unions in states where they are legal was shelved after more than five dozen lawmakers objected. The Pentagon is reviewing the issue.

President Barack Obama signed the law last December, and in July he certified that lifting the ban will not diminish the military's ability to fight.

Some in Congress remain opposed to repeal, arguing that it may undermine order and discipline.

A leading advocate, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said Monday the repeal is overdue.

"Our nation will finally close the door on a fundamental unfairness for gays and lesbians, and indeed affirm equality for all Americans," said the California Democrat.

Little said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would discuss the matter at a Pentagon news conference on Tuesday. The Pentagon otherwise was taking a low-key approach to the historic day.

Gay rights groups, however, were preparing a series of celebrations.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said repeal supporters would hold "Repeal Day" celebrations across the country Tuesday.

"Through these events taking place in every state across the country we will pay tribute to their service and sacrifice as we look forward to this new era of military service -- an era that honors the contributions of all qualified Americans who have served and wish to serve," said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director of the advocacy group.