WASHINGTON – The military says it is ready for the lifting today of a ban on gays serving openly, while supporters of repeal applaud the historic change as a victory for equal rights.

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, Pentagon press secretary George Little said Monday.

“We are prepared for repeal,” Little said.

Last week, the Pentagon said 97 percent of the military has undergone training in the new law. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, and President Obama have all certified that allowing openly gay service members will not undermine the effectiveness of the military or its recruiting.

Repeal was set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. EDT today. For weeks the military services have been accepting applications from openly gay recruits, while waiting for repeal to take effect before processing the applications.

As soon as the ban is lifted, the Defense Department will publish revised regulations to reflect the new law. The revisions, such as eliminating references to banned homosexual service, are in line with policy guidance that was issued by top Pentagon officials in January, after Obama signed the legislation that did away with “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The lifting of the 18-year-old ban also will mean a halt to all pending investigations, discharges and other administrative proceedings that were begun under the Clinton-era law.

Existing conduct standards, like those regarding public displays of affection, will continue regardless of sexual orientation.

There also will be no immediate changes to eligibility standards for military benefits. All service members already are entitled to certain benefits and entitlements, such as designating a partner as one’s life insurance beneficiary.