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Maj. Witt’s legal win no remedy for ‘don’t ask’

Post by Kim Bradford on Sep. 25, 2010 at 4:03 pm with 4 Comments »
September 25, 2010 3:05 pm

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

A skilled Air Force flight nurse got the justice due her in a Tacoma courtroom Friday, but military order took a beating in the process.

Maj. Margaret Witt of Spokane won her fight to be reinstated four years after the military discharged her for being gay. U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that her presence did not adversely affect unit morale or cohesion.

It was the first judicial application of the so-called “Witt standard,” established by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008 as a caveat to the military’s 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Witt easily met her namesake standard: Several members of her squadron testified that her firing hadn’t preserved unit morale, cohesion and troop readiness – it had hurt them.

Her legal win was, in Judge Leighton’s words, a victory in gays’ long fight for civil rights. It also was a setback for equal treatment and military discipline.

The Witt standard is a 9th Circuit precedent and therefore provides relief only to gay troops in the Western states that make up the circuit. It also creates a subjective and ultimately unworkable benchmark for determining whether the military has grounds to expel a gay service member.

The Air Force argued convincingly during the Witt trial that all regulations must be enforced uniformly to maintain order and morale.

Lt. Gen Charles E. Stenner, chief of the Air Force Reserve, told the court: “If you apply the rules consistently, then all is well. If you apply them inconsistently, it leads to a festering discussion. It leads to a loss of readiness, really.”

The military is grounded in uniform, bright-line standards that help preserve order in often chaotic situations. Disparate enforcement of rules – or worse yet, making personnel decisions by unit referendum – turns the bright lines fuzzy.

The Witt standard may serve a service member whose career is unfairly threatened, but it’s no way to run a military. The right way to dismantle don’t ask, don’t tell isn’t through piecemeal court rulings but in one fell – and orderly – legislative blow.

It’s up to Congress to finish the job it started when the House voted earlier this year to repeal the policy once the president and military leaders certified that it would not harm troop readiness, recruiting or retention.

The Senate should have followed suit by now – and might have last week had Majority Leader Harry Reid not gummed up the works with maneuverings on a defense spending bill.

Democratic leaders attempting to use the legislation as a stage for electioneering rejected Republicans’ attempts to do the same, foiling consideration of not just the defense bill but also the don’t ask, don’t tell repeal attached to it.

If Democrats are serious about allowing gays to serve openly in the military, they should submit the “don’t ask” repeal back to a straight up-or-down vote immediately after the election.

To do otherwise is to perpetuate uneven justice for troops and an unholy mess for the military.

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. pen_mightier_than_sword says:

    Dino Rossi hates gays: he’s against gays un the military, he’s against gay marriage, he’s against gay adoption and he is against laws guaranteeing equal rights for gays. Only bigots will vote Rossi.

  2. slasmith says:

    Pen why do you hate Italian Americans so much? It seems to me you are nothing but a bigot.

  3. I served for 26 years in the US Air Force, both as an NCO and Commissioned Officer. I continue to work with US Military Veterans from all services. Not one of my contacts, veteran, retired, dependent or active duty military are in favor of repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. Their reasons are primarily related to morale and good order. In my opinion Margaret Witt knowingly engaged in unlawful, (according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice) immoral behavior and indeed perverted sexual acts. The human anatomy is not designed for homosexual acts. It is designed for procreation, making other uses of that anatomy a perversion of original purpose. It was telling that she was attempting to “date” a married woman, whose husband correctly “outed” her to military authorities. Her actions,(unbecoming of a commissioned officer) not her orientation, are her undoing. If she would attempt to “date” a married female, she would likely do the same to other females. The US Military cannot condone such actions from Commissioned Officers, whether that officer is a nurse or an officer of the line. In addition, in the Thursday issue of the TNT a survey of “Gay” men found that of over 8,000 men who had HIV AIDS, over 50% were unaware that they had the disease! If the military allows homosexuals to serve, the military medical system could well collapse. That segement of the population carries 5X the number of STDs, HIV and AIDS. The military medical system can barely attend to wounded, retired military and dependents.
    Society may accept homoseuality but the US Military should not.

  4. OldLefty says:

    “goair4c says:
    September 25, 2010 at 11:34 pm
    I served for 26 years in the US Air Force, both as an NCO and Commissioned Officer. I continue to work with US Military Veterans from all services. Not one of my contacts, veteran, retired, dependent or active duty military are in favor of repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. Their reasons are primarily related to morale and good order. In my opinion Margaret Witt knowingly engaged in unlawful, (according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice) immoral behavior and indeed perverted sexual acts. The human anatomy is not designed for homosexual acts. It is designed for procreation, making other uses of that anatomy a perversion of original purpose.”

    Geeeeeeeeeeeez….I can’t take anymore of this.

    I would doubt that your contemporaries would want a repeal of DADT. They probably think that homosexuality should be hidden in their closet with their other dirty little secrets.

    Your comment about the design of the human body stipulates that you have some insider information about homosexual practices. The interesting part being that nothing a homosexual does has not been tried by heterosexuals. Sex is for procreation only? Oh….how Victorian of you!

    I’m sure you and your military officers and NCOs have never partaken in lesbian photos – published to fulfill the fantasies of men, not women.

    Your final statement – “Society may accept homoseuality but the US Military should not” – tell us that you don’t find the US Military to be a part of society.

    Just remember, you said it. I didn’t.

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