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Navy Drops Efforts To Discharge Lesbian Reservist

June 17, 1995

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The Navy has dropped efforts to discharge a lesbian reserve officer, and she plans to celebrate by marching Sunday in the city’s gay and lesbian parade.

``I’m looking forward to marching ... without fear of looking over my shoulder,″ Lt. Cmdr. (Select) Zoe Dunning said at a news conference. ``From this day forward, I serve as an open lesbian in the U.S. military, with the military’s condonement.″

Federal courts around the country have issued conflicting rulings on the constitutionality of the Clinton administration’s ``don’t ask, don’t tell″ policy barring service members from declaring their homosexuality. The issue is expected to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dunning acknowledged that she has no guarantee that if the policy prevails, the Navy might not bring a fresh case against her.

``Every service member still falls under the policy that exists,″ said Lt. Cmdr. Jacquie Yost, a Navy spokeswoman in San Francisco. ``I cannot give you a guestimate on what’s going to happen next.″

Dunning’s case was the fourth time that gay service members have satisfied a military tribunal that they would not engage in homosexual acts, Yost said.

But Matt Coles, head of the American Civil Liberties Union gay and lesbian rights project, maintains it is the first time the military has backed down, without being forced by a court, from trying to expel an openly gay service member under the current policy.

The decision amounts to a ``street precedent,″ without weight in the courts but still important to gays and lesbians in the military as a sign of progress, he said.

The Navy followed the recommendation of a hearing tribunal, which voted unanimously in December to keep Dunning despite her disclosing her sexual orientation at a 1993 rally.

The Navy’s two-paragraph letter informed her that ``your administrative separation case proceedings are closed, and you will be retained in the Naval Service.″

All record of naval prosecutors’ efforts to obtain an honorable discharge against her will be purged from her files, the Navy wrote.

Dunning credited her good service record, noting that the Navy promoted her even as it tried to discharge her. Also she acknowledged she has the good fortune to be in a city where the federal appeals court took her side in the past when it ruled that Navy Petty Officer Keith Meinhold may stay in the service.

Dunning, 31, served six years in the Navy before transferring to the reserves. A management consultant in private life, she works one weekend a month as a supply officer.

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