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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 13, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 19
After landmark lawsuit, Maj. Witt to retire with benefits
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After landmark lawsuit, Maj. Witt to retire with benefits

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Major Margaret Witt, a decorated Air Force flight nurse who had been dismissed under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) policy, has reached a final settlement in her landmark lawsuit, the ACLU of Washington announced May 10.

Witt will retire with full benefits, the government will drop its appeal of the federal court ruling in her favor, and the unlawful discharge will be removed from her military service record.

The ACLU-WA has represented Witt directly since 2006 in a lawsuit challenging her discharge.

'I am proud to have played a role in bringing about the repeal of DADT. I am so pleased that the tens of thousands of Lesbians and Gays who have served their country honorably will be able to serve openly,' said Witt at a May 10 press conference.

On December 22, 2010, President Obama signed legislation passed by Congress repealing DADT. Witt attended the signing ceremony in Washington, D.C.

'For the past seven years, I have been fighting for my rights and the rights of other Lesbians and Gays in the military. I wish I could have spent that time serving with my peers. Now, with the lawsuit completed, I'm ready to start a new chapter in my life,' Witt said.

She has begun a doctorate program and works as a rehab coordinator at the Veterans Administration hospital in Spokane.

In 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Air Force had to prove discharging Major Witt was necessary for purposes of military readiness. Although the ruling left in place the military's DADT policy, it sent the case back to the trial court, saying that before discharging a soldier under the policy, the military must prove that the individual's conduct actually hurts morale and unit cohesion. This requirement became known as the 'Witt Standard.' In September 2010, after a six-day trial, the U.S. District Court in Tacoma found that Major Witt's sexual orientation did not negatively impact unit morale or cohesion, and ordered the Air Force to reinstate her.

ACLU-WA Legal Director Sarah Dunne said, 'The U.S. military integrated different races and women over the last 50 years. As we've seen over the past six months, the military is now in the process of successfully integrating openly Lesbian and Gay soldiers. DADT was a failed policy that perpetuated unlawful discrimination for far too long. We are pleased that Gay and Lesbian U.S. servicemembers no longer have to hide their sexual orientation and compromise their integrity.'

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