- Associated Press - Monday, September 19, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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, a Pentagon official said.

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,” Mr. 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.

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

Mr. Little said Defense Secretary Leon E. 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.

Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.

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