DADT isn’t over: ‘A general just approved the separation of an SLDN client serving overseas in the U.S. Air Force’

The coming week is pivotal for the effort to end DADT. And, as a reminder of how dangerous the DADT policy is for gay and lesbian servicemembers, I just received this via email from SLDN:

CONFIRMED TODAY: As the U.S. Senate is poised to take up repeal legislation, service members still cannot come out. A general just approved the separation of an SLDN client serving overseas in the U.S. Air Force. This service member now faces an administrative separation board. If the discharge moves forward, the fate of the service member’s career will ultimately fall to Secretary Michael B. Donley, Dept. of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson, and Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel Dr. Clifford L. Stanley.” Warning to service members: www.SLDN.org/StillAtRisk

We’re running out of time for the Senate to act on the DADT language, which is included in the Defense Authorization bill.

The Obama administration has really screwed up this process. And, they’re still discharging gay and lesbian servicemembers. This is beyond appalling.




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New federal task force on LGBT youth suicide prevention to be announced

Pamela Hyde

On World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates launched a new public-private partnership called National Action Alliance on Suicide Prevention (“Action Alliance”).

“This alliance gives us an opportunity to engage every sector of society-public, private and philanthropic,” said Secretary Sebelius. “Now we will be able to work together more effectively than ever before to reach people at risk and help them stay safe.”

The Action Alliance’s own press release was more specific about groups at risk, acknowledging that “…we have high rates of non-fatal suicide attempts in other groups, especially young Latinas and Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) youths.”

The Action Alliance is coordinated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at US Department of Health and Human Services.  SAMHSA also administers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

SAMHSA’s Administrator Pamela Hyde, an openly gay Obama appointee, stated in a recent letter to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) that Action Alliance “will shortly announce the establishment of a task force to reduce suicide among LGBT youth.”

The task force, she said, will be co-led by Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, US Department of Education, and by Charles Robbins, Executive Director of The Trevor Project.  The Trevor Project is a national suicide prevention program for LGBT youth.

Jennings founded the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which “strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”  Like Hyde, Jennings is an openly-gay Obama appointee.

“SAMHSA recognizes that LGBT youth face unique risk factors that make them vulnerable to suicide,” said Hyde.  Her agency “will use its programs and initiatives to ensure a focus on LGBT youth. …We are deeply committed to improving the social-emotional conditions and circumstances for LGBT youth.”

Planning for the task force began in September with the convening of the Action Alliance Executive Committee and was an outcome of the interests and expertise of its members, Sally Spencer-Thomas from the Action Alliance Press Office told me in a telephone interview.  Hyde, Jennings and Robbins all sit on Action Alliance’s Executive Committee.  

The LGBT task force will be formally announced by the end of the year, said Spencer-Thomas, along with task forces geared for other at-risk populations including American Indians/Alaska Natives, military veterans and their families and Latina youths.
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Major Witt: ‘I am thrilled to be able to serve in the Air Force again’

The Advocate posted Major Witt’s response to the DOJ’s decision to appeal while not seeking a stay, which means she can be reinstated:

“I am thrilled to be able to serve in the Air Force again,” Witt said in a Tuesday statement circulated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which litigated her case. “The men and women in the unit are like family members to me, and I’ve been waiting a long time to rejoin them. Thousands of men and women who are gay and lesbian honorably serve this country in our military. Many people forget that the U.S. military is the most diverse workforce in the world — we are extremely versed in adaptation.”

We are lucky to have people like Margaret Witt in our military. The men and women who serve with Witt are a lot wiser than many of the elected officials here in DC. And, DOJ should stop lying about its need to appeal this case.

Pam Spaulding covered SLDN’s 2009 dinner, when Major Witt received the Barry Winchell award for courage. This excerpt from Major Witt’s speech says a lot about her and her military colleagues. It’s powerful:

I’d like to tell you a little of what I miss about the military. I miss my friends — my military family — both active duty and reserves.

I have literally received calls from all over the world asking —“what can I do?” Two years after I literally disappeared I got a call from a dear friend, a SMSgt in my unit. We had deployed together many times –and to this day I consider him my big brother. He was planning his retirement ceremony and wanted me to be one of his invited guests. He knew I would be there for him even if it meant stepping back into my squadron. When the day came – I wasn’t even sure I would be allowed on base let alone through the doors of my unit. Once through the gate I cried all the way to the parking lot. I think it took me ten minutes to even open my car door. Once I did I was spotted immediately, hugged and taken inside. I was greeted with more hugs, tears and dozens of flowers. During my friend’s ceremony he called me up to the front of the room. It was his big day and in his usual selfless character he started to talk about me and my career. When he finished the entire squadron gave me a standing ovation. I was overwhelmed. He had given me the retirement ceremony that had been taken from me. That’s the kind of people I served with. That’s what I miss—and that is how I affected unit cohesion and morale.

After 18 years of dedicated, decorated service, my commanders discovered that I am a lesbian. The Air Force told me my career was over. But I stood up to the ban and challenged my discharge.

So glad she did.

Major Witt has already made history. And, I hope she does again when DOJ loses on appeal. That will be the third time Witt and her lawyers have beaten the government in court.

All she wants to do is serve her country.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Tony Perkins’ Completely Reasonable Fear Repealing DADT Will Force Obama To Bring Back The Draft

Reasonable person Tony Perkins, whose Focus on the Family hatemongering has found a home at Tucker Carlon's The Daily Caller, raises reasonable fears: If we repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and lose all those homophobic straight soldiers, Obama is going to have to bring back the draft! Lord.

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SHOCK: Air Force Internal Memo Says Pentagon Will ‘Abide By’ DADT Ruling, Halt Dismissals Immediately

In an internal memo the Air Force's Lieutenant General Richard C. Harding today instructed its JAG officers that until DoJ decides whether to appeal the DADT ruling, they must abide by the court injunction that says the military must move "immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding." It appears the instruction isn't limited to the Air Force, but the entire Department of Defense. Developing …

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Court Says Air Force Nurse May Serve Openly; Impact of the Witt Decision

Major Margaret Witt is positioned to be the first lesbian service member to serve openly and without fear of discharge under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) after a district court ruling last Friday provided for her reinstatement.  The district court judge, Judge Ronald B. Leighton, was directed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether the specific application of DADT to Major Witt significantly furthered the government’s interest in promoting military readiness, unit morale and cohesion.  Judge Leighton found that the application of DADT to Major Margaret Witt did not further these interests.

Instead, Judge Leighton found that Major Witt “was an exemplary officer” and “an effective leader, a caring mentor, a skilled clinician, and an integral member of an effective team.”  In fact, he found that “her loss within the squadron resulted in a diminution of the unit’s ability to carry out its mission” – which is counter to the very interests offered as justifications for DADT.

In the decision, Judge Leighton also discusses the military’s ability to be effective while embracing diversity.  He says:

“The men and women of the United States military have over the years demonstrated the ability to accept diverse peoples into their ranks and treat them with the respect necessary to accomplish the mission, whatever that mission might be.  That ability has persistently allowed the armed forces of the United States to be the most professional, dedicated and effective military in the world.”

He also points out that the military has proven this “during the integration of blacks, other minorities and women into the armed forces.”

This decision is the first time the “Witt standard” – which was created during earlier review of Major Witt’s case – has been applied by a district court.  Under the Witt standard, the military is required to demonstrate that each individual discharged under DADT has a negative impact on his/her unit because of his/her sexual orientation.  The Witt standard is only applicable in the Ninth Circuit, which includes Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho.  As noted on Friday by HRC President Joe Solmonese,   “had Major Witt been discharged in any other circuit in the country, she would not have had her day in court.”

Considering that the Justice Department declined to appeal the decision that led to the Witt standard, it is unlikely that it will contest Major Witt’s reinstatement.

Last week, legislative repeal of DADT was blocked when partisan, Republican obstructionism prevented the Senate from considering the National Defense Authorization bill, to which DADT repeal legislation is attached.

In addition, only two weeks ago, we saw a federal district court in the Ninth Circuit declare DADT unconstitutional.  Currently, that district court judge is determining if she will place a worldwide, military-wide injunction on the enforcement of DADT, a move the Justice Department fervently opposes.

DADT litigation will only increase while DADT remains on the books.  The Administration is wasting valuable resources defending the failed law.  After learning of the decision allowing for Major Witt’s reinstatement on Friday, Solmonese stated “it is time for Congress and the Administration to recognize that his failed law should be removed from the books once and for all.”


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Judge: Reinstate Witt to Air Force

MARGARET WITT X390 (MATTALGREN.COM) | ADVOCATE.COMA federal judge ruled Friday to have former Air Force major Margaret Witt reinstated to her job after she was discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Advocate.com: Daily News

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BREAKING: Margaret Witt won her DADT case. Must be allowed to serve in Air Force.

Great news, which is just breaking:

Federal district court judge Ronald Leighton has ruled that ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ — when applied to Major Margaret Witt — violated her rights. He says she should be allowed back in Air Force.

Leighton started breaking up and was in tears as he said that the love and support of family continued to be the best thing that came out of the case, said KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Kevin McCarty.

Yes, her discharge is unconstitutional. We’ll have more details later.

Here’s an update @ 5:20 PM:

Spokane resident Margaret Witt can be reinstated in the Air Force Reserves despite the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy on homosexuals in the military, a federal judge ruled today.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that Witt’s constitutional protections, and evidence that her unit did not suffer any loss of morale until she was discharged for being a lesbian, trump the general reasons set down by Congress for that policy

She should be restored to her position as flight nurse . .. as soon as practical,” Leighton said.

UPDATE @ 5:29 PM: Statement from SU’s Alex Nicholson:

“Yet another judge has taken yet another righteous, historic, and courageous stand against a discriminatory and unconstitutional law. Major Witt’s case is a clear-cut one in which her discharge itself actually harmed unit cohesion, morale, and combat readiness.”

Now, we have to wait to see if the Department of Justice will appeal this case, too.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Judge Orders Air Force To Reinstate Lesbian Nurse Witt

 

6a00d8341c730253ef01348752a03b970c-800wi While Eddie Long's languishing in scandal this weekend, retired Air Force Maj. Margaret Witt will be busy celebrating, because federal Judge Judge Ronald Leighton ruled this afternoon that the military violated Witt's constitutional rights by discharging her under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"Good flight nurses are hard to find," the Judge noted today, after a six-day trial, and told the Air Force to reinstate Witt, a move which "would not adversely affect unit moral or cohesion."

Witt's journey began in 2004, when, after 17 years in the Air Force, she was suspended and ultimately discharged under the discriminatory policy.

The resultant lawsuit led the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule in Witt's favor in 2008, and this latest ruling, which impacts only Witt's discharge, has already resonated among gay groups the country.

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese released the following jubilant statement, "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."

Meanwhile, Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson declared, "Yet another judge has taken yet another righteous, historic, and courageous stand against a discriminatory and unconstitutional law."

There's still no word from the White House or the Department of Justice, which this week issued an objection to the Log Cabin Republicans' injunction asking for a DADT ban.

Small Update: A reader pointed out to me that I neglected to include a statement from the ACLU, which represented Witt. Many apologies. Here is what ACLU executive director Kathleen Taylor had to say: Today we heard the hammer of justice strike for Major Margaret Witt. We look forward to the day when all members of our military can serve our country without invidious discrimination. [Witt's discharge] was entirely unfair to her and unwise for the military, which needs her significant skills."


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Air Force Major Mike Almy, SLDN respond to McCain interview with reporters

You’ll recall that yesterday, Sen. John McCain was cornered by The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld and MetroWeekly’s Chris Geidner about his outrageous claim that there aren’t any witch hunts going on under DADT after the Senate failed to break a filibuster on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

MCCAIN: I dont’ care what you say! And I don’t care what others say. I’ve seen it in action. I’ve seen it in action. I have sons in the military, I know the military very well. So they’re not telling you the truth.

ELEVELD: Senator, just to make sure…

MCCAIN: Just to make sure. We do not go out and seek out and find out….

ELEVELD: Private emails are not being searched? Private emails are not being searched?

MCCAIN: …See if someone is gay or not. We do not go out and see whether someone is gay or not.

ELEVELD: There are documented cases…

MCCAIN: They do not, they do not, they do not. You can say that they are, you can say [inaudible] it’s not true!… Yea, I’d like to see…

GEIDNER: It is the case of Mike Almy, Senators.

McCain and Almy were on Rachel’s show:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Today, Mike Almy has come forward to comment on the Arizona Senator’s befuddled assertions in a letter.

September 22, 2010

U.S. Sen. John McCain

241 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Sen. McCain,

I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March of this year and told the story of my discharge from the military because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). You were in attendance that day and heard me tell my story of how the Air Force conducted an open-ended search of my private emails, solely to determine if I had violated the DADT law.

On Tuesday, September 21, you emphatically denied that the military conducts searches of private emails because of DADT. When challenged by reporters who mentioned my name, you said “bring him to my office.” Senator, I respectfully ask for an opportunity to do so to discuss this law that took my career.

In this letter I will again share with you my story, as I did during the committee hearing last March.

Almy continues below the fold.

Once DADT is history, I plan to return to active duty as an officer and a leader in the Air Force.

For thirteen years, I served in the United States Air Force where I attained the rank of major before I was discharged under DADT.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee considers including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill, we’re very close — just two or three votes — to passing repeal in committee. I ask for you to voice your support to put us over the top.

I come from a family with a rich legacy of military service. My father is a West Point graduate who taught chemistry at the Air Force Academy, flew helicopters in Vietnam, conducting search and rescue operations for downed aircrews, and ultimately retired as a senior officer from the Air Force. One of my uncles retired as a Master Gunnery Sergeant from the Marine Corps, with service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Another uncle served in the Army in Korea.

Growing up, I didn’t really know what civilians did, I just knew I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become a military officer.

I joined Air Force ROTC in 1988 and was awarded a scholarship. I earned my jump wings in 1991. In 1992, I graduated from ROTC in the top 10% of all graduates nationwide. In 1993, I went on active duty, just as DADT was becoming a law.

Stationed in Oklahoma, I was named officer of the year for my unit of nearly 1,000 people. Later, I was one of six officers selected from the entire Air force to attend Professional Military Education at Quantico, Virginia.

During my career, I deployed to the Middle East four times. In my last deployment, I led a team of nearly 200 men and women to operate and maintain the systems used to control the air space over Iraq. We came under daily mortar attacks, one of which struck one of my Airmen and also caused significant damage to our equipment. Towards the end of this deployment to Iraq, I was named one of the top officers in my career field for the entire Air Force.

In the stress of a war zone, the Air Force authorized us to use our work email accounts for “personal or morale purposes” because private email accounts were blocked for security.

Shortly after I left Iraq — during a routine search of my computer files — someone found that my “morale” was supported by the person I loved — a man.

The email — our modern day letter home — was forwarded to my commander.

I was relieved of my duties, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated.

In my discharge proceeding, several of my former troops wrote character reference letters for me, including one of my squadron commanders. Their letters expressed their respect for me as an officer, their hope to have me back on the job and their shock at how the Air Force was treating me.

Approximately a year after I was relieved of my duties, my Wing Commander recommended I be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, even though the Air Force was actively pursuing my discharge.

But instead, after 16 months, I was given a police escort off the base as if I were a common criminal or a threat to national security. The severance pay I received was half of what it would have been had I been separated for any other reason.

Despite this treatment, my greatest desire is still to return to active duty as an officer and leader in the United States Air Force, protecting the freedoms of a nation that I love; freedoms that I myself was not allowed to enjoy while serving in the military.

Senator McCain, I’ve had no greater honor than leading men and women in the United States Air Force, in harm’s way, to defend the freedom’s we enjoy in this country, as you yourself have honorably done. I genuinely hope you will support me in my endeavor to return to the Air Force as an officer and a leader.

Thank you,

Mike Almy

Former Major, USAF

Statement by Army veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“Sen. John McCain is either ignoring U.S. Senate testimony that showed the military was proactively seeking out gay and lesbian service members for discharge under ‘Don’t Ask’, or he is openly deceiving Americans after his shameless filibuster.  Either way, McCain is grossly out of touch and factually off the mark. Air Force Major Almy testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, where McCain was present, that the Air Force proactively went into his emails – authorized for “personal or morale purposes” while at war – and found that he was gay.  Major Almy never made a statement, even after being asked by his command, to his sexual orientation. And if McCain didn’t filibuster the bill that included repeal, Major Almy also testified that he’d return back the day repeal is certified.”

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