>A DADT smackdown, even after the repeal of the homophobic policy failed in Congress last week.
In Washington state, a federal judge has ruled that Major Margaret Witt, a decorated flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being gay, must be allowed to return to service as soon as possible.
Witt was first suspended in 2004 and then discharged under DADT after the Air Force learned she had been in a long-term relationship with a civilian woman, and Witt immediately set about suing to get her job back.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton: “Today you have won a victory in that struggle, the depth and duration of which will be determined by other judicial officers and hopefully soon the political branches of government.”
Judge Leighton’s ruling marks the second smackdown of DADT in as many weeks. Recently, a federal judge in California ruled the law unconstitutional and is considering whether to immediately halt the ban. This kind of injunction will instantly halt any dismissals of gay servicemen and women, but it does nothing for the 13,000+ who’ve already been discharged because of their sexual orientation.
Gay rights advocates see Leighton’s ruling as a death knell for the policy, because they believe the government must now justify each and every discharge under DADT.
The Justice Department has yet to comment on the ruling, but James Lobsenz, Witt’s attorney, said he expected an appeal. And the Leighton ruling is somewhat of a surprise, considering that back in 2006, he rejected Margaret Witt’s claim that the Air Force violated her rights, following precedent that the military policy on gays is constitutional.
But then an appeals court panel overruled his ruling two years later, determining that DADT does in fact intrude on the constitutional rights of gay service members; that panel said that, for the government to discharge gays, it must prove that their firings further military goals.
Armed with this new ruling, Leighton decided that Margaret Witt’s discharge “advanced no legitimate military interest”and, instead, hurt morale within her unit and weakened the squadron’s ability to carry out its mission: “There is no evidence that wounded troops care about the sexual orientation of the flight nurse or medical technician tending to their wounds.”
Nor should there be.