In another win in the battle to overturn DADT, late this afternoon a federal court ordered the reinstatement of Air Force Major Margaret Witt, who was suspended just before her retirement date in 2004 after her superiors learned she is a lesbian. Today’s decision only applies to Major Witt’s case.
A federal judge ruled Friday that a decorated flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being gay should be given her job back as soon as possible in the latest legal setback to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The decision by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton came in a closely watched case as a tense debate has been playing out over the policy. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to lift the ban this week, but two federal judges have ruled against the policy in recent weeks. Maj. Margaret Witt was discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and sued to get her job back. A judge in 2006 rejected Witt’s claims that the Air Force violated her rights when it fired her. An appeals court panel overruled him two years later, leaving it to Leighton to determine whether her firing met that standard.
Witt was represented by the ACLU. Read the decision here (PDF.) Reactions to the decision are below.
Human Rights Campaign
“By reinstating Major Witt, a decorated Air Force nurse discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ another federal court has demonstrated once again that this discriminatory law does not contribute to our nation’s security or defense,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Had Major Witt been discharged in any other circuit in the country, she would not had her day in court. It is time for Congress and the Administration to recognize that his failed law should be removed from the books once and for all.”
“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.” This legal victory against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law is the second this month, with a judge in Riverside, California previously declaring the entire “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law unconstitutional in a facial challenge to the law brought by the Log Cabin Republicans. Major Witt’s victory will apply only to her own discharge, but the precedent set with this decision and the previous appellate court ruling in this case on the standard to be used in deciding on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharges all contribute to a significant shift in how courts appear to be viewing and treating the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
More reactions will be added to this post as they arrive.