- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DUXBURY, Vt. (AP) — Just as the formal repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy took effect, NavyLt. 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,” Lt. Ross said early Tuesday.


Hours before the change, the American military was also making final preparations for the historic policy shift. The Pentagon announced that it was already accepting applications from openly gay candidates, although officials said they would wait a day before reviewing them.

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

Lt. Ross wore his dress uniform for the double-ring ceremony that began at 11:45 p.m. Monday at Duxbury’s Moose Meadow Lodge, a log cabin bed-and-breakfast perched on a hillside about 15 miles 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,” Mr. Trulson said.

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

Lt. Ross said he plans to have 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.”

Pentagon press secretary George Little said Monday that 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 percent of the military has undergone training in the new law.

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.

President Obama signed the law in December and certified in July 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.

Story Continues →