VA hospital still reviewing lesbian vet’s complaint

Officials to decide on discipline for nurse accused of anti-gay tirade

Esther Garatie

Esther Garatie

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Officials at the Dallas VA Medical Center are expected to decide within weeks whether to discipline a nurse accused of discriminating against a lesbian Marine veteran who sought mental health treatment.

The VA Medical Center has placed the nurse, Lincy Pandithurai of Cedar Hill, on administrative duty pending the outcome of its investigation into a complaint from 28-year-old Esther Garatie of Irving.

Garatie, a former Marine lance corporal who was honorably discharged in 2006, said she sought treatment for severe depression and possible post-traumatic stress disorder — including thoughts of suicide — on Oct. 12.

Garatie alleges that during a two-hour tirade, Pandithurai told her she was living in sin and said that was the reason for her mental health issues. Garatie said the nurse advised her to accept Jesus and become straight.

Monica A. Smith, a spokesman for the VA Medical Center, said this week that the hospital’s investigative board completed its inquiry into Garatie’s complaint on Friday, Dec. 2. The investigative board’s report will now be forwarded the hospital’s Executive Office.

“The Executive Office, Human Resources, and the Office of General Counsel will review the board’s report and determine what, if any, actions are necessary,” Smith said. “We expect this will take no longer than a few weeks.”

More than 16,000 people have signed a petition at Change.org calling for the VA Medical Center to terminate Pandithurai based on Garatie’s complaint. Garatie has also filed a complaint against Pandithurai with the Texas Board of Nursing.

Both the VA Medical Center and the Board of Nursing have policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Pandithurai didn’t return phone messages from Dallas Voice seeking comment about the complaints.

Since Dallas Voice first reported on the complaints in late October, both the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News have published articles.

Jessica Gerson, Garatie’s close friend who’s been assisting her with the complaints, said this week that the ex-Marine is holding up well despite the publicity. However, Gerson said the VA Medical Center is still “dragging their feet on providing real therapy.”

Gerson said Garatie has finally been assigned a permanent therapist but won’t be able to see the doctor until Dec. 16.

“This is rather disheartening, as you might imagine, but unfortunately not particularly surprising at this point,” Gerson said in an email this week. “The publicity has been hard for her, particularly the need to relive what happened at the VA (and some of her other traumatic experiences) over and over again, but she’s been a real trouper, as ever.

“She’s such a private person that this publicity has been deeply uncomfortable for her, not only because of the need to relive her experiences, but also simply because she’s the kind of person who prefers to stay quietly in the background,’ Gerson said. “It’s taken a great deal of courage for her to set her preference for privacy aside enough to seek justice for what happened.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas VA hospital to decide within ‘a few weeks’ on discipline for nurse accused of anti-gay tirade

Esther Garatie

Five weeks after our initial story on Esther Garatie, The Dallas Morning News (subscription only) published a piece on the front page of its Metro section Sunday about the lesbian Marine veteran who alleges she was subject to a hateful anti-gay tirade by a nurse practitioner at the Dallas VA Medical Center in October.

Better late than never, we suppose. And while we could argue that the DMN should have given us credit as the media outlet that broke the story — as the Dallas Observer so graciously did a few weeks back — it’s also true that the Change.org petition calling for the nurse to be fired predated even our report.

Anyhow, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot of new info in the DMN story, but there are a few interesting tidbits. One is that supporters of the nurse, Lincy Pandithurai of Cedar Hill, have launched a Facebook page called, “Support Lincy T Pandithurai (nurse).” When we checked this afternoon, the page had a whopping total of 36 members —  compared to the more than 16,000 who’ve signed the Change.org petition (and the 196 who’ve joined another FB page called, “Fire Nurse Lincy Pandithurai and Revoke Her License“).

But back to the “Support Lincy T Pandithurai (nurse)” FB page mentioned by the DMN, which says the following under Info:

“This dear sweet nurse dared to witness Jesus Christ to a lost lesbian. So now the the gay community would rather see a good nurse fired rather than someone possibly have an opportunity to choose another path. How sad is that? Fellow Americans I ask you to wake up,speak out before it is too late. Let’s show this loving nurse our support. Pray for the lost soul she witnessed to. I bet she never said an unkind word.”

—  John Wright

The Nooner: Oprah, Minnesota governor’s race, H&M, Clover coffee, Cedar Hill slaying

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Instant Tea’s new midday news briefing, The Nooner™. Here goes nothing:

• Oprah denies she’s a lesbian in interview with Barbara Walters to air Thursday. (Video clip above.)

• Anti-gay, Target-backed Republican Tom Emmer concedes Minnesota governor’s race. Does this mean it’s OK to shop there again?

• Clover coffee arrives at Starbucks on Knox Street.

• H&M to open pop-up store at NorthPark today?

• Arrest of partner in Cedar Hill teacher’s murder a relief for family.

—  John Wright

Oklahoma City teacher charged with murder in lesbian partner’s 2008 Cedar Hill slaying

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn

A woman is accused of fatally shooting her lesbian partner in their Cedar Hill home in 2008.

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn, a teacher, was arrested Monday at Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, according to The Oklahoman. Vaughn is charged with first-degree murder.

Vaughn’s partner, Judith Marie Bell, was fatally shot on Feb. 29, 2008, in the bedroom of her home in the suburb just south of Dallas.

Vaughn told police an intruder shot Bell, but there were no signs of forced entry at the home.

Bell had been a special education teacher. Vaughn began teaching in Oklahoma City last year.

—  John Wright

Drawing Dallas

Just in time for Halloween, fashionista Davidré Stefond gives us naughty thoughts

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Hot, hot, hot!

Name and age: Davidré Stefond, 18

Occupation: Fashion marketing student

Spotted: Cedar Hill

The devil makes him do it: A French Gemini, Davidré Stefond walks to the beat of his own distinctive drum. Ever the trendsetter, Davidré has his own unique sense of style, and was known in school as “the kid who could dress.” Active in his business college, this trendsetter plays forward for his school’s soccer team, is an avid volleyball player, and practices Tae kwon do. His love of acting has inspired him to pursue a career as a professional actor, and he hopes to play difficult dramatic roles.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas