DEATHS: James ‘Kissey’ Olson, James Edward ‘Beaux’ Geer, Ray ‘Alpha Pup’ Witt

James “Kissey” Olson, 62, died at his home in Dallas on March 30 after recently being diagnosed with liver cancer.

Olson was native of Iron River, Mich. After graduating from high school, he served in the U.S. Air Force for six years. He went to work for AT&T, living in Phoeniz, Little Rock and finally Dallas, where he retired.

He had lived in the Dallas area for more than 24 years.

His home here was party central and was always open to his many friends who will miss his and his hospitality.

Olson is survived by his mother, Minnie, and sisters, Ruth and Doris, of Iron River; his brother, Ron, of Milwaukee; his ex-wife, Jo, of Yuma, Az.; his two children, Scott and Amy of Phoenix, and six grandchildren; and his beloved Chihuahua, Moose.

Olson was cremated and his ashes were buried at Iron River. A celebration of his life will be held on the patio at The Hidden Door, 5025 Bowser St., on Saturday, April 30, at 2 p.m.

 

James Edward “Beaux” Geer, 46, died April 13.

Geer worked as a hairdresser with Salon D for 23 years. He was also an artist who founded “Healing Texas through the Arts” to showcase new artists and make their works available to the public.

Geer was truly loved by friends and family, and he had an innocent sweetness of spirit and extraordinary talent that turned everything he touched into a thing of beauty. His paintings provided a view into his soul. He will be profoundly missed by those who knew him and will keep him forever in their hearts.

Geer is survived by his mother and stepfather, Bill and Millie Ritter of Plano; his father, Thomas Geer, Lafayette, La.; his brother Greg “Blackie” Geer, wife Kayce, daughter Typhane and grandson Thor, all of Austin; his best friend and brother-of-the heart, Dale Hall; and a host of other family and friends. Plans are pending for a celebration of life memorial gathering.

 

Ray “Alpha Pup” Witt, 59, died March 30 from an apparent stroke. Witt, loving boy and partner to Daddy Ron Hertz of Dallas and a member of the Dallas leather community, was a former member of Discipline Corps and NLA-Dallas. He held the first International Puppy title presented in 2001, thus becoming the “Alpha Pup.” His gift for storytelling and his warm heart endeared him to many in the community and his presence will be missed.Witt is survived by his partner of 9 ½ years, Ron Hertz of Dallas; his mother, Duluth Witt of Lexington, Ky.; and his canine friend “Mugsy.” A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

 

—  John Wright

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

—  admin

Department of Justice Appeals Judge’s Order That Lesbian Nurse Margaret Witt, Discharged Under DADT, Be Reinstated

The Department of Justice late this afternoon appealed a September ruling ordering the Air Force to reinstate lesbian flight nurse Margaret Witt, who was suspended in 2004, and ultimately discharged under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.

The WaPo reports: Witt

"U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma ruled in September that Maj. Margaret Witt's dismissal under the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy violated her rights. Witt was suspended in 2004 and subsequently discharged after the Air Force learned she had been in a long-term relationship with a civilian woman. She sued to get her job back. The Justice Department filed the appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, the deadline for doing so. The government is also appealing a ruling from a federal judge in California that found the "don't ask, don't tell" policy unconstitutional."

The government, however, did not ask the court to stay the decision, suggesting that Witt may serve during the appeal.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released the following statement:

“Today, the Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal in a case involving a legal challenge to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, as the Department traditionally does when acts of Congress have been held unconstitutional.  This filing in no way diminishes the President’s — and his Administration’s — firm commitment to achieving a legislative repeal of DADT this year.  Indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy.  In recent weeks, the President and other Administration officials have been working with the Senate to move forward with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, including a repeal of DADT, during the lame duck.”


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

DOJ Will Appeal DADT Reinstatement Of USAF Major Margaret Witt

The Department of Justice has filed a brief announcing their intent to appeal the reinstatement of Major Margaret Witt, whose DADT-related discharge was overturned by a federal court in September. Chris Geidner reports at Metro Weekly:

With today’s filing, DOJ stated in a docketing statement required to be filed with the Notice of Appeal that the principal issue to be raised on appeal is: “Whether plaintiff’s discharge pursuant to 10 U.S.C 654 and its implementing regulations was constitutional and whether plaintiff should have been ordered reinstated to the military, subject to meeting applicable requirements respecting qualifications for continued service.”

Geidner adds that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs took note of today’s action by the DOJ and cautioned, “This filing in no way diminishes the President’s — and his Administration’s — firm commitment to achieving a legislative repeal of DADT this year. Indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy.”

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

DADT and Major Witt: The Third Act is About to Begin.

DADT and Major Witt:  The Third Act is About to Begin.

Tomorrow the Obama Administration and its Department of Justice must decide yet again whether to appeal a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell court case they have lost. The sixty-day period the government had to appeal Witt v. Department of the Air Force which began on September 24th, is at its end.

Major Witt

The Witt case is a bit hard to understand, but hang in there with me.
So far, two acts of what look to be a three act play have been performed:

The main scene of Act I took place at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as it ruled, in May 2008, that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was unconstitutional as written — only if the government could show actual harm to a unit in terms of its cohesion could a member be discharged.  

When the government chose not to appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court, this so-called  Witt standard became the law of the territory of the United States assigned to the Ninth Circuit. In theory, anyone discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in CA, OR, WA, AK, HI, NV, AZ, ID, MT, Guam, or the Marianas could challenge their dismissal under this new standard. Major Witt’s challenge was then remanded to the Washington District Court to reconsider the specific circumstances under which she was discharged in light of the ruling.

In Act II, Judge Leighton heard the case and, applying the Ninth Circuit’s decision specifically to Major Witt’s circumstances, issued his verdict and further ordered that Major Witt be reinstated into the Air Force. He ruled that her discharge was unconstitutional because the Air Force had failed to demonstrate any benefit to “unit cohesion” or any other benefit resulting from her forced exit. This decision was handed on September 24th of this year.

As I reported in What’s Next for Major Witt, this was not quite the victory it seemed. All Major Witt could do was sit at home and wait for the government to raise the curtain on its decision on whether to appeal.

Tomorrow, the curtain gets raised and Act III begins.

The government could choose not to appeal — a path that is extremely unlikely given the administration’s insistence so far on appealing all similar cases. But if it chooses not to, Major Witt should be readmitted into the Air Force forthwith. The play would end abruptly, but happily. (This would not affect any other discharges because the decision by Judge Leighton applies only to Major Witt. Anyone else wanting to contest a possible dismissal on the basis of the Witt Standard would have to seek their own legal challenge.  To my knowledge, no one else has done so except for Colonel Fehrenbach, who filed for an injunction to prevent his discharge under DADT; the Air Force is still considering his case.)

In the likely event that there is an appeal, we will be in for many more scenes: another round of requests for stays, requests for denials of stays, and likely more drama at the Supreme Court.

Once the government announces an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, they will have to ask for a stay of Judge Leighton’s order; otherwise the Air Force would presumably be forced to let Major Witt serve her country immediately (a tragedy to some, but likely not to the audience, who would cheer).

Unlike in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, which tread on previously uncovered territory (the constitutionality of DADT under any circumstance), Judge Leighton’s decision is simply a straightforward application of a ruling handed down by the Ninth Circuit itself.  Therefore, to a layman’s understanding of how stays work, it is hard to see how that same Ninth Circuit could rationalize issuing a permanent stay of Judge Leighton’s order pending an appellate hearing.

Assuming the Ninth Circuit takes its Witt decision to heart and denies a stay request, the government will presumably appeal the denial-of-stay decision to the Supreme Court — just as LCR attorneys appealed the unfavorable stay decision they received from the Ninth.  But while it was pretty clear what the Supreme Court was going to do in Log Cabin Republicans (uphold the Ninth Circuit-issued stay, which they did), it is not at all clear what will happen here.

As with LCR, the request for a stay will first go to Judge Kennedy (assigned to handle stay requests for all Ninth Circuit appeals). He can agree to the stay, deny it or refer the decision to the entire Supreme Court.

If no stay is ultimately granted, Major Witt would presumably be reinstated pending appeal. She would serve the entire time it took for this case to be scheduled, heard and decided — likely more than a year.  If DADT were not to be repealed, and she ultimately lost the case, she would then be re-discharged!

Even if the Senate were to pass the NDAA with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal in it and it was signed by the President, Major Witt’s case would still not necessarily be moot. The repeal of DADT only goes into effect 60 days after the President, the Secretary of Defense and Admiral Mullen certify the report. Even then the Department of Defense would still have the authority to dismiss homosexuals at will until and unless new regulations were issued. All repeal will do is take away the statutory requirement that they be dismissed, not the legality of doing so.  The government could, in theory, continue to argue that Major Witt was correctly dismissed and should remain so.

Who knows? Perhaps three acts will not be enough.

========================================

Quote from Judge Leighton’s decision:


The evidence produced at trial overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the suspension and discharge of Margaret Witt did not significantly further the important government interest in advancing unit morale and cohesion. To the contrary, the actions taken against Major Witt had the opposite effect.

The evidence before the Court is that Major Margaret Witt was an exemplary officer. She was an effective leader, a caring mentor, a skilled clinician, and an integral member of an effective team. Her loss within the squadron resulted in a diminution of the unit’s ability to carry out its mission. Good flight nurses are hard to find. The evidence clearly supports the plaintiff’s assertion that the reinstatement of Major Witt would not adversely affect the morale or unit cohesion of the 446th AES. The only evidence to the contrary comes in the form of survey responses and preference polls.

Witt Lawsuit Timeline:

  • April 2006: Witt files suit in United States District Court.
  • Fall, 2007: Witt’s case is dismissed by the District Court. She appeals to the Ninth Circuit.
  • November 5, 2007: Oral arguments are heard by a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit.
  • May 21, 2008: Decision is handed down.
  • May 3, 2009:  The government declines to appeal, leaving Witt as binding on the Ninth Circuit. The case is remanded back to District Court for trial under this new standard.
  • September 13, 2010:  Witt’s case began anew in District Court.
  • September 21, 2010:  Trial ends.  Judge Leighton announces a decision to be handed down September 24, 2010.
  • September 24, 2010: Judge Leighton hands down his decision.
  • November 23, 2010: Decision by government to appeal or not is due

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

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.”


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

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

—  John Wright

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

—  John Wright

Judge rules DADT discharge of Major Margaret Witt unconstitutional – she must be reinstated

AP:

A federal judge says the Air Force violated the constitutional rights of a highly decorated flight nurse when it discharged her for being gay, and ordered that she be given her job back as soon as possible.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton issued his highly anticipated ruling Friday in the case of former Maj. Margaret Witt. She was discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays serving in the military and sued to get her job back.

In 2008, a federal appeals court panel ruled in her case that the military can’t discharge people for being gay unless it proves their firing furthered military goals.

After a six-day trial, the judge said testimony proved Witt was an outstanding nurse and her reinstatement would do nothing to hurt unit morale.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

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."


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright