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

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 program. But Mr. Swezy won’t receive military health insurance or access to a support group when Lt. Ross is at sea.

Gay marriage is an even thornier issue. A Navy proposal to train chaplains to conduct same-sex civil unions in states where they are legal was shelved earlier this year after more than five dozen lawmakers objected. The Pentagon is reviewing the issue.

Lt. Ross, a 2002 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is a surface warfare officer at the Army’s Fort Huachuca. He expects to return to sea next spring.

He met Mr. Swezy in early 2000 while Lt. Ross was still an academy student. At the time, he didn’t think through the personal implications of the military’s ban on gay and lesbian service members serving openly. But as his relationship with Mr. Swezy grew, it became important.

Their Tucson home is about a two-hour commute from Fort Huachuca, which is near the Mexican border. Under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Lt. Ross could not talk about his relationship with Mr. Swezy, but he said some of his co-workers must have known.

“Anyone with any moderate perception could have figured it out,” he said.

When he goes back to work Thursday, Lt. Ross isn’t planning to advertise that he’s married to a man.

“Even though the law goes away, it will still be the white elephant in the room until everyone comes to terms with it,” he said.

Lt. Ross said the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” will simplify many aspects of his life.

“It requires you to lie several times a day,” Lt. Ross said of the old system. “Being in the military is extremely invasive. It becomes a web of excuses you make when you try to be as honest as possible, but you can’t be honest.”

He hopes being able to talk about his relationship will make his work easier, too.

“If you’re standing watch at midnight on a surface ship, there’s not much to talk about,” he said. “It becomes very difficult to trust someone you can’t be honest with.”

Associated Press photographer Toby Talbot contributed to this report.