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Co-Workers Testify That Lesbian Reservist Is Superb Officer

December 1, 1994

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A Navy reservist facing discharge because she admitted being a lesbian is a good worker whose homosexuality has never been an issue with them, her co- workers testified Wednesday.

″She always did a good job. She was a team player. She got in there and pitched in,″ said Navy Reserve Capt. James Kraft, who recently recommended Zoe Dunning for promotion to lieutenant commander.

Dunning faces discharge because in January 1993 she publicly announced that she is a lesbian. She said she expected President Clinton would shortly fulfill a campaign promise to lift the ban on homosexuals serving in the military.

Instead, a furious debate erupted in Congress and the nation, and a compromise ″don’t ask, don’t tell″ policy was enacted instead.

Under that policy, service members who declare they are homosexual face discharge unless they can prove they won’t engage in homosexual acts while in the service.

Dunning’s lawyers maintain that her statement, ″I am a lesbian,″ does not imply that she intended to engage in prohibited conduct.

Her attorney Gary Bonfiglio began his opening statements before a three- member board of inquiry by extolling Dunning’s military career, reading excerpts from glowing reviews of her job performance, including some made after her 1993 announcement.

Five co-workers and supervisors testified that Dunning, who works one weekend a month as a supply officer at the Naval Aviation Depot in Alameda, is an excellent officer.

″I feel that the Navy would be losing a superb officer. I think it would be a mistake,″ Kraft said.

Navy Reserve Lt. Melna Jones, who is married, said she shared a room with Dunning on an out-of-town assignment and had no problems.

The hearing at Treasure Island Naval Station is Dunning’s second appearance before a military board. She initially was recommended for honorable discharge under the old ban on homosexuals, but those proceedings were postponed after the policy was changed.

Her case is being closely watched as a harbinger of how the new policy will work.

In a previous case, Navy sonar operator Keith Meinhold was discharged after he announced on television in 1992 that he is gay. Meinhold won a federal court battle for reinstatement and the Clinton administration said Monday it would not appeal the case further.

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