|Zoe Dunning, left, standing by as President Obama signs the repeal of Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell. WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY CHUCK KENNEDY
By Zoe Dunning
Thursday, September 20, marks the one-year anniversary of the repeal of the Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell law prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving in uniform. For me and for our community, it was a historic day. After literally centuries of military gay bans in one form or another, our government finally allowed qualified, patriotic young men and women to serve regardless of their sexual orientation.
This past year has led to many firsts in the military â€“ the first same sex wedding ceremony in which a service member wore their uniform, the first on base same-sex proposal (captured on camera, at least!), and the first actively serving openly gay flag officer in the U.S. military. Yes, you heard me right. While being promoted to brigadier general on August 12, 2012, Tammy Smith openly acknowledged her homosexuality by having her wife, Tracy Hepner, pin her star to her uniform. I have to admit, after working on the repeal of Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell for so many years, I am not sure I thought I would ever see such a sight. Congratulations to BGEN Smith and Tracy â€“ here is hoping for many more years of service and of love!
I want to take a moment to discuss an amazing organization that I support - Emerge CA. It trains Democratic women to run for public office. I went through their training in 2010 and found the experience transformative. Not only was I given the tools and training to successfully run for a seat on the San Francisco County Democratic Central Committee (DCCC), but I also made lifelong friendships and relationships. The program must work because more and more graduates are successfully winning their campaigns and serving in elected office. Noteworthy San Francisco alumnae include Malia Cohen, the San Francisco District 10 Supervisor; Emily Murase and Rachel Norton, who serve on the San Francisco Board of Education; and Leah Pimentel and Alix Rosenthal, who both serve with me on the DCCC. Now we have four other Emerge graduates running for San Francisco office this November â€“ Dr. Amy Bacharach for City College Board, Gladys Soto for Board of Education, and London Breed and Thea Selby are running for the District 5 Supervisor seat. I encourage you to get to know these incredible women and support them as they work to bring a womanâ€™s voice to the cityâ€™s policy decisions.
If you are interested in going through this training, the application period is open right now for the coming yearâ€™s class. We need to continue to create a pipeline of Lesbian, Bi and Transgender women leaders willing to run for office because, as Missouri State Senator (and open lesbian) Jolie Justus says, â€śif you donâ€™t have a seat at the table, youâ€™re probably on the menu!â€ť Find out more at www.emergeca.org.
Finally, I want to encourage all of you reading this to get involved in the fall campaign. If you are a Democrat, the new Obama for America, California Democratic Party, and San Francisco Democratic Party joint campaign headquarters is now open at 2278 Market St. (the former Tower Records space). I will be there this Saturday and hope you can come help phone bank or go out and register new voters. See you then!
Zoe Dunning is a retired Navy Commander and was a lead activist in the repeal of Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell. She currently serves as the 1st Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party and lives in Noe Valley with her wife, Pam, two cats and their golden retriever rescue â€“ how lesbian!