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ACLU challenges
Air Force's discharge of lesbian major

ACLU challenges
Air Force's discharge of lesbian major

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging the U.S. Air Force Reserves' discharge of a decorated major and flight nurse who had been in a lesbian relationship for several years. Major Margaret Witt, 42, of Spokane, Wash., was discharged last month, about a year and a half after the Air Force placed her on unpaid leave, telling her she could no longer take part in any military duties. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Seattle, seeks an injunction prohibiting Witt's discharge and a declaration that doing so would violate her rights to engage in private activities without government interference. Witt, most recently a flight nurse and operating nurse assigned to McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, joined the Air Force in 1986, the ACLU said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. She had been in what the ACLU characterized as "a committed relationship" with a female civilian from 1997 to 2003. ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said Wednesday that relationship has since ended. During her 18-year career, Witt served in the Persian Gulf and received various honors, including the Air Force Commendation Medal for saving the life of a Department of Defense employee who had collapsed aboard a government-chartered flight from Bahrain. No officer had been assigned the case, Honig said. A call to the judge advocate general's office at McChord was not immediately returned. The ACLU argued that Witt's absence has harmed her unit's morale and that it comes at a time when the Air Force Reserves has a shortage of flight nurses. "Major Margaret Witt has been an exemplary member of the military with a distinguished record of service," said Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU's Washington office. "To discharge her simply because of her sexual orientation is unfair and does not make our military stronger." (AP)

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