Excellent editorial in the Tacoma News Tribune about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with two key points: 1) the U.S. Department of Justice won’t be able to meet the “Witt standard” in the upcoming DADT trial of Major Margaret Witt — and it couldn’t meet that standard against Victor Fehrenbach and 2) DADT has to end.
A federal judge, in a trial set to begin Sept. 13, will apply a new standard to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This time, the burden will be on the military to prove not that Witt is a lesbian – her sexual orientation is not in dispute – but that her homosexuality is harmful to her unit’s cohesiveness.
It will be the first judicial application of the so-called “Witt standard” established by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Obama administration let pass a May 3 deadline to appeal the 9th’s decision to the Supreme Court, setting the stage for the trial in U.S. District Court next month.
The facts are not on the government’s side: More than a dozen of Witt’s colleagues have given sworn declaration objecting to her dismissal; one was so angry that he refused to re-enlist.
Should the Witt standard blunt the don’t ask, don’t tell policy as expected, it could prove a boon to gay service members who have been waiting on Congress – to date, in vain.
Waiting in vain for Congress — and the President.
But the Witt standard is a stopgap measure and no more. It provides limited relief since it applies only to cases in Western states that make up the Ninth Circuit. And it isn’t preventing people like Jonathan Hopkins of Morton – a West Point graduate who led three combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – from having to leave careers they love.
Don’t ask, don’t tell needs to go, and it’s up to the Senate to finish the job when it returns next month.
The Senate needs to finish the Defense bill in September and get it to conference ASAP. Delay hurts the chances for passing the compromise bill this year. Opponents of DADT repeal know that and will do everything possible to cause problems. Our allies, starting with the President, have to make sure that nothing interferes with the process of getting the compromise DADT bill signed into law..