FILE - In this March 26, 2007 file photo, Andrew Chapin of New York City takes part in a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington supporting legislative efforts to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gay soldiers. National security adviser James Jones says President Barack Obama is committed to taking on the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military. But Jones says the president has many other pressing matters on his desk, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, file)
As the country waits this weeks expected signing of a bill that will allow openly gay people to serve in the military, gay service veterans are already celebrating here in the Bay Area.
Members of the armed forces gathered at San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center on Saturday to watch the Senate vote and erupted in cheers when the final tally of the senate was read.
Pres. Barack Obama is supposed officially overturn the Clinton-era policy known as "don't ask, don't tell" before Christmas. "The Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend," Mr. Obama said in a written statement.
Retired U.S. Navy Commander Zoe Dunning cried "tears of joy," saying she has worked for nearly two decades to repeal the policy. Dunning went through two military discharge hearings after she declared she was gay. She was ultimately allowed to remain in the Navy.
"To stand there and watch history in the making and feel I hopefully contributed in some small way, it makes it all worth it," she said.
The repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans. A Pentagon study also found that 70 percent of current and former servicemembers predicted the repeal would have a positive, mixed or no effect.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who voted in favor of the bill, noted that support for repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy has grown in recent years.
"I strongly believe that is emblematic of the change of thinking in the United States," Feinstein said in a statement. "Over these last years, gay Americans have established themselves as heroes, as professionals, as academicians, and as brave warriors for our country."
Once all the signatures are in place, there will be a 60-day waiting period until the repeal can go into effect.
"We've cleared the last major hurdle and we're on our way," Dunning said.