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Tag: Margaret Witt

Sep.
25th

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

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.

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Aug.
24th

Welcome – but insufficient – relief from ‘don’t ask’

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Next month – more than four years after Maj. Margaret Witt was discharged from the Air Force for being gay – she may finally get the justice due her in a Tacoma courtroom.

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.

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