Air Force Major Discharged
Under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell” Trial Begins Today
September 13, 2010
- The landmark case of Major Margaret Witt, a decorated U.S. Air Force
flight nurse dismissed under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, goes to
trial today in U.S. District Court in
"I want to serve my country. I have loved being in the military – my fellow airmen have been my family. I am proud of my career and want to continue doing my job," said Maj. Witt. "Wounded people never asked me about my sexual orientation. They were just glad to see me there."
In 2008, the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Air Force must
prove that discharging Maj. Witt was necessary for purposes of military
readiness. While the ruling left in place the military's "Don't Ask,
Don't Tell" policy, the court found that before discharging a soldier,
the military must prove that the individual's conduct hurt morale and
unit cohesion. The case was remanded to federal district court for trial
under the appellate court's standard of review.
"Maj. Witt has
been an exemplary member of the military with a distinguished record of
service. To discharge her simply because of her sexual orientation is
unfair to her and also is unwise for the military, which needs her
skills," said ACLU of Washington Executive Director Kathleen Taylor.
Maj. Witt's trial
will proceed as scheduled despite a recent ruling by a federal district
court in a separate case that struck down the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
policy as unconstitutional. That ruling should be persuasive authority
here, but is not yet binding on the federal court in
"Maj. Witt's case
illustrates once again the baseless nature of the 'Don't Ask, Don't
Tell' policy," said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender Project. "The policy is founded on the idea
that openly lesbian or gay service members will detract from morale, but
the evidence here shows that Maj. Witt's colleagues didn't care that
she's a lesbian. Congress should not wait for more courts to rule, it
should finish the job and repeal this law."
Maj. Witt was a
flight nurse assigned to McChord Air Force Base near
Maj. Witt served
in Oman during Operation Enduring Freedom and received a medal from
President Bush, who noted that she had delivered "outstanding medical
care" to injured service members and that her "outstanding aerial
accomplishments…reflect great credit upon herself and the United States
Air Force." In 2003, Maj. Witt received another medal for saving the
life of a Defense Department employee who collapsed aboard a government
chartered flight from
From 1997 to 2003,
Maj. Witt was in a committed relationship with a civilian woman. In the
summer of 2004, Maj. Witt was notified that the Air Force had begun an
investigation into an allegation that she had engaged in homosexual
conduct. In November 2004, she was placed on unpaid leave and told she
could no longer participate in any military duties, pending formal
separation proceedings. In March 2006, the Air Force informed her that
she was being administratively discharged on grounds of homosexual
The military has
provided no evidence that her sexual orientation or conduct has caused a
problem in the performance of her military duties. To the contrary, the
ACLU has submitted declarations from military colleagues testifying that
her forced absence is harmful to her unit's morale.
|Other News Stories
|©AvStop Online Magazine Contact Us Return To News|