Washington State gay rights advocates another loss, a
federal judge has dismissed a challenge to the
military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy brought by a
highly decorated Air Force nurse who was forced out of
her job because she is a lesbian.
Air Force Reserve
major Margaret Witt, 42, of Spokane, had asked U.S.
district judge Ronald B. Leighton to reinstate her, citing a
U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the Texas
sodomy law. Leighton refused and dismissed her case
after finding that the Texas decision did not affect
the constitutionality of "don't ask, don't tell," the
military's policy prohibiting inquiries about the sex
lives of service members but requiring the discharge
of those who acknowledge being gay.
The ruling came
Wednesday, the same day the Washington State supreme
court upheld the state ban on same-sex marriage. "When
it rains, it pours," said Doug Honig of the American
Civil Liberties Union, which plans to appeal Witt's
case to the ninth U.S. circuit court of appeals.
"Major Witt is much decorated and has saved people's lives.
The people she helped didn't care about her sexual
Witt, a 19-year
Air Force veteran who had been assigned to a medical
evacuation squadron at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma,
was suspended without pay in late 2004 after the Air
Force received an apparently anonymous tip that she
had been in a long-term relationship with a civilian
woman. Her discharge is pending; the Air Force has not yet
scheduled a hearing she has requested to contest it.
"This court is
not unsympathetic to the situation in which Major Witt
currently finds herself," Leighton wrote. "Within the
military context, she did not draw attention to her
sexual orientation, and her colleagues value her
contribution to their unit and apparently want her
back. She has served her country faithfully and with
concluded, the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in
Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state
statutes criminalizing gay sex as a violation of an
individual's right to sexual privacy, had no effect on
the constitutional analysis of "don't ask, don't
tell." The policy has uniformly been upheld by the
courts and remains valid, Leighton wrote. "'Don't ask, don't
tell' represents a rational response to a legitimate
government concern," the judge said. That concern is
to avoid risks to unit cohesion posed by the presence
of gays in the military, he said. (AP)