Breaking: Federal Judge Rules Decorated Air Force Flight Nurse Must Be Reinstated

By GLAAD |
September 24, 2010

Breaking news on the law that bars gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the United States Armed Forces.  As the Los Angeles Times reported tonight:

The U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays violated the constitutional rights of a decorated Air Force reserve flight nurse when it compelled her discharge, a federal judge in Washington state said Friday in ordering the military to reinstate Maj. Margaret Witt.

The order by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton in Tacoma applied only to Witt’s challenge of her 2006 discharge, but the judge noted in his ruling that decisions about whether [being gay] in the armed forces impeded legitimate military objectives had to be decided on a case-by-case basis, not a blanket policy.

Leighton cited Witt’s exemplary career and performance evaluations as evidence that the Air Force was unharmed by her sexual orientation and also noted reports from her former colleagues that it was her dismissal that proved disruptive of unit cohesion and morale.

Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network reacted with this statement:

"This is a stunning victory for Major Witt and all gay and lesbian patriots serving our country today. Clearly federal courts are trending towards allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.  It is only a matter of time before this happens throughout the armed forces, but these cases are slowly working their way through the legal process and it could well be years before there is finality in the courts. The favorable Witt decision, like the Log Cabin Republicans ruling, only underscores the urgent need for the Senate to take up repeal in the lame duck session."

And this reaction from Servicemembers United, the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans:

"Yet another judge has taken yet another righteous, historic, and courageous stand against a discriminatory and unconstitutional law," said Alexander Nicholson, founder and Executive Director of Servicemembers United. "Major Witt's case is a clear-cut one in which her discharge itself actually harmed unit cohesion, morale, and combat readiness."

GLAAD will keep a close eye on media coverage of this landmark decision, and bring you up to speed with news analysis early next week. To read past blogs on DADT click here.

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