Zoe Dunning Reflects on DATT - NBC Bay Area

Zoe Dunning Reflects on DATT



    President Obama made it official today: in 60 days the policy will be lifted. It's a decision gay and lesbian soldiers are celebrating, including a local sailor who now has a chance to finally pursue his dream. (Published Saturday, July 23, 2011)

    Friday's move to end the military's 18-year-old ban on openly gay  troops will help remove a tremendous burden from gay and lesbian members of  the armed forces, a local activist said.
        Retired U.S. Navy Commander Zoe Dunning, a San Francisco resident  and decorated veteran who came out as a lesbian in 1993 while serving, said  President Obama's signing Friday of the certification for repeal of "don't  ask, don't tell" was "the final hurdle" in the fight against the policy.

        The certification from U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen states that the  military is ready to repeal the policy and can maintain military readiness,  unit cohesion, recruitment and retention goals. The repeal, which was signed  into law in December, will take effect 60 days from Friday, on Sept. 20,  2011.     Dunning, a co-chair of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network,  was one of the first people prosecuted under "don't ask, don't tell," and one  of the few to successfully fight discharge from the military under it, before  her legal defense was banned by the Pentagon.
        She said the policy, which prohibited gay and lesbian  servicemembers from being open about their sexual orientation, had a  tremendous impact on the lives of those forced to serve under it.
        "Every day that you go into work, you wonder if that is your last  day, if someone turned you in or you're being investigated, and the stress of  that burden takes a tremendous toll on you," Dunning said.
        Dunning said it was important to remember that gay and lesbian  servicemembers would not truly be safe until "don't ask, don't tell" is  formally repealed.
        Friday's certification drew praise as well from local officials  and groups.
        U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said the policy had weakened  national security and ran counter to American values.
        "A person's fitness for service should be determined by their  patriotism, valor and ability to carry out the mission, not sexual  orientation," Speier said. "Many of our allies have already enacted policies  of open service without any harm to battle readiness or unit cohesion."