“Don't Ask, Don't Tell” ceased being in effect on Tuesday.

The law that banned gay and bisexual troops from serving openly was repealed by Congress in December and replaced with a plan to lift the military ban.

More than 13,000 service members were discharged for violating the policy throughout its nearly 18 year history.

The policy's end means gay and lesbian troops can now discuss their sexual orientation and prospective service members will no longer be turned away because of their sexual orientation.

“Today marks the official end of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and is an historic milestone along the journey to achieving LGBT equality in America's military,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group which lobbied for the law's end. “Thanks to veterans, active duty, leaders, allies and supporters everywhere, this is a monumental day for our service members and our nation. Indeed, we have taken a tremendous leap forward for LGBT equality in the military.”

According to the Associated Press, the military had already begun taking applications from openly gay recruits and said it would begin acting on them after the policy was lifted.

At a press conference on Monday, Pentagon press secretary George Little said the military was prepared for the change.

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

Some service members immediately ended their long silence.

In Vermont, Navy Lt. Gary Ross, 33, married Dan Swezy, a 49-year-old civilian, at the stroke of midnight.

“It requires you to lie several times a day,” Ross said of the old policy. “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.”

And 25-year-old U.S. Air Force First Lt. Joshua David Seefried shed the alias he used for several years as a co-founder of OutServe, the underground network of active-duty gay military personnel. On Tuesday, J.D. Smith, the name Seefried used, went away along with DADT.

“It's all about leading now,” Seefried told the AP. “If we all stay in the closet and don't act brave, then the next generation won't have any progress.”

Repeal supporters will hold “Repeal Day” celebrations across the country. More than 100 events are scheduled. For an event in your area, visit SLDN.org.