When US Navy Lieutenant Gary Ross and his partner were searching for a place to get married, they settled on a site in Vermont, in part because the state is in the Eastern time zone.
That way, the two men were able to recite their vows before family and friends at the first possible moment after the formal repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that barred gays from serving openly. Just after midnight on Tuesday, the partners of 11 years were married.
“I think it was a beautiful ceremony. The emotions really hit me ... but it’s finally official,” Ross said early yesterday.
Hours before the change was to take effect early yesterday, the US 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.
Ross, 33, and Dan Swezy, a 49-year-old civilian, traveled 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 legalized same-sex marriage.
Ross wore his dress uniform for the ceremony beginning at 11:45pm on Monday at Duxbury’s Moose Meadow Lodge, a log cabin bed-and-breakfast perched on a hillside about 24km 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,” Trulson said.
Ross and Swezy were joined by a small group of close friends and some family, who shared champagne with them after the ceremony.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said on 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 yesterday’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.
US President Barack Obama signed the law in December and in July certified that lifting the ban would not diminish the military’s ability to fight. Some in Congress remain opposed to repeal, arguing that it may undermine order and discipline.
Existing standards of personal conduct, such as those pertaining to public displays of affection, will continue regardless of sexual orientation.